Friday, June 28, 2024

Friday Done List June 28

 Okay. We're talking a better work week here.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • A new humor piece was published on Tuesday
  • Promoted said humor piece.
  • Started another humor piece.
  • Have some other ideas for short writing.
  • Started cleaning old files where I found a couple of things that were supposed to be humor--of sorts--back in the day, and might evolve into more humor now.

Goal 2. Submit 143 Canterbury Road to Agents

  • I am done with the agent search for 143 and happy to have it behind me. Unless something drops into my lap, of course. I'll submit again in that case.
  • I made two submissions for another project, Good Women. I am also through submitting that, unless something drops into my lap.
  • One of the agents rejected it in just 24 hours. That makes me feel she must not have a lot to do, if she can get respond that quickly.

Goal 3. Community Building/Marketing/Branding

  • I did four blog posts this week.
  • I promoted some of those blog posts.

Goal 4. Nineteenth Century Novel, Which is Just for Fun

  • Organized some research links I've been emailing myself on this.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Some Annotated Reading June 27

While I didn't do much writing last month, I did do a bit of reading. Including:

Four Books!

  • My cousin Nooch mentioned author Jess Walter in a comment a while back, so last month I read his The Financial Lives of the Poets, a book about a man's marriage and life falling apart. Walter has a dark, deadpan sense of humor that I enjoyed very much. 
  • The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older. This is my favorite kind of scifi, a blend of science fiction and mystery. The world of the book I totally understood, which is not something that always happens for me with science fiction. The two main characters reminded me of Holmes and Watson, except that they are both women and the Watson character here is a great deal smarter than the original. They also have a romantic history. There's a second book I hope to read at some point.
  • I finished reading The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories by Roch Carrier. In an earlier post, I speculated that these were children's stories, with a child narrator and often a moral point of some kind. I wouldn't say that anymore. I'd like to do more reading about les contes, the kinds of stories Carrier is known for writing, but I'm not finding much in my quick hunt for material. 
  • Finally, I read a thriller that shall remain nameless. It plodded along and was extremely improbable. Yet I read nearly every word.

Short Writing


  •  I'd Like to Discuss My Child Specifically While You're Trying to Address a Group of People by Caroline Horwitz at Frazzled. Sometimes you'll hear talk about humor needing to be true. While I think you can make too much of that, this piece is definitely a case of truth in humor. That first situation Horwitz uses? I was in a room full of people while something just like that was going on. As God is my witness, I wasn't the mother doing the talking.
  • Things I Grew Up With That Seem Weird....Today by Patrick Metzger at MuddyUm This is a very funny spin on those old fart articles about how things were different when I was young. What makes it work is the total lack of nostalgia. "...drunk driving was popular and largely ignored." This writer deserves the 6,000+ claps he got for this piece just for calling Hawkeye Pierce a sanctimonious alcoholic.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A New Humor Publication. With A Bear.

June has been a rough month for me as far as work is concerned. I spent a week celebrating a birthday with a family member. Then there were a number of days of preparation for John the Baptist Day. Then there was some this, and there was some that. 

But I did have a humor piece accepted for publication. Things I Don't Want to Hear from My Hiking Group was published this morning at Greener Pastures Magazine.

This piece as an interesting backstory. But, then, I think everything I write has an interesting backstory. But this one really does!

1. It began when I would do "Things You Don't Want to Hear on the Trail" posts on Facebook after my husband and I had been hiking.

2. Greener Pastures suggested I make some changes in the original submission, including coming up with a different title. (A truly excellent idea. I'll spare you why. Take my word for it.) Between the time I first submitted the bit and the time I revised it, my husband and I came upon our first bear while hiking. The thing was actually coming toward us on the trail. That is why there is now a bear joke in this piece. Originally there was no bear reference. 

3. My husband worked on the first draft with me, since our exchanges on the trail inspired it. At one point he was looking at what I had and said, "How about X?" "No, no," I said. "Y would be funnier." 

I then told him that we sounded like Ava and Deborah on Hacks. Which led to a discussion of which of us was Ava and which was Deborah. To be clear, at my house I am Deborah. If Deborah spent most of her life in sweatpants.

Monday, June 24, 2024

"We Talk French Here." A John the Baptist Day Post.

Today is the real John the Baptist Day, a holiday in Canada celebrating francophone language and culture. (It's observed in other French countries as well.) I say it is the real John the Baptist Day, because our family, which has only been observing it for five or six years, did so on Saturday, not the real day, with a cookout. 

Mes pauvres galettes

Part of our celebration of French culture was the Galettes a la Melasse Moelleuses a L'Ancienne I made. From a French recipe. Which I did not translate, except for the occasional word. Like moelleuses, which means "soft." I threw away all but three of those cookies yesterday. I have no idea how they tasted, because I have a gluten free batch for me. Next year I want a bonfire. I've heard that's a very John the Baptist Day thing to do, and we could try making s'mores for dessert. That whole scenario might go over better. 

John the Baptist Day was quite an event in nineteenth century Montreal. Not so much the south of New England today or maybe anywhere else in the U.S. How little interest is there in this holiday? There's Not Going To Be A St. John The Baptist Day Parade This Year, Eli is among my very least read pieces on the Medium platform. People on bed rest won't read this thing.

Some John the B Day Reading

As part of my personal John the Baptist Day observance, I've been reading The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories by Roch Carrier, a French Canadian writer. Carrier is a prolific author, including work for children. I haven't finished this book yet, but these stories may be children's stories (a child narrator, certainly), similar to the Soup books by Robert Newton Peck. Both portray child life in the past, though my superficial reading about the authors suggests Carrier's writing may be more authentic. (Excusez-moi while I pause to say I've always had major issues with the claims that Peck's nonSoup book, A Day No Pigs Would Die, is autobiographical or even semi-autobiographical, because of the Shakers-in-Vermont element. In short, they weren't.)

An article says (and I've seen this elsewhere) that Carrier is best known for writing le conte, or very short stories, which is what the stories in the collection I'm reading are. When I first saw this, I thought, Quoi? Are we talking French Canadian flash fiction? The article says of his work, "In a few hundred words a grotesque situation is exploited, a miniature moral is drawn, and an ironic commentary on human foibles is neatly and forcefully made." I would add that there are also sometimes some minor fantasy elements. Flash fiction? Northern magical realism?

The miniature moral aspect of some of these stories is my least favorite part. However, I'm liking the way the stories are set in a French-speaking world in an unspecified past. I'm not interested in anything like nostalgia, but the issue of the parents' concerns over English being taught and what the Anglais who runs Eatons will think make these things pop for me. 

The story The Hockey Sweater is supposed to be a huge deal in both French- and English-speaking Canada. I may have to read it again. So far What Language Do Bears Speak?, which I quote in my post title, is my favorite. 

Since I'm focusing my own writing on short work now, reading these short stories and reading about le conte has been, and will continue to be, thought-provoking. I like to think it could have some impact on my work.

UPDATE: When I promoted this post on X, I saw how beloved the short story The Hockey Sweater (there is also a picture book version) is and how well-known Roch Carrier is in Canada. So I decided I should try to figure out how to pronounce his name. I stumbled upon the man himself speaking, explaining how it's said. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

Friday Done List June 14

 I got only two things done this week, but they were significant.

Goal 1. Adult Short Stories, Essays, and Humor

  • Some editors from one of the Medium humor sites contacted me regarding a submission, suggesting some changes and offering to read it again if I was interested in making them. One suggestion, in particular, was very good. I had to put this thing out of my mind for at least a week, then spent a couple of days revising this week. It has been resubmitted.
  • I just finished the short story I've been working on most of this year. I mean I finished it around 1:30 this afternoon. This is huge for me. I have trouble walking away from projects. Now that this is done, I can turn my attention to smaller pieces. I will let it sit for a while before submitting. 
So I worked on only one goal this week, but it got a load off my shoulders. Felt a little weepy after finishing that short story, to be honest.  

Friday, June 07, 2024

Was Tomie dePaola Influenced By Frida Kahlo?

I have been missing, because we spent the past week celebrating a birthday. Hiking, trail maintenance, art museums, going out for lunch...and dinner...and ice cream. Saw our first bear on a trail last Friday on our first day. We paid a visit to the The William Benton Museum of Art  at the University of Connecticut in Storrs yesterday our last day, They had a couple of good exhibits going. Additionally, we happened to see Frida's Kitchen, a painting by Tomie dePaola.

Now, dePaola has a history with UConn. In 1999, he gave his work materials to the Northeast Children's Literature Collection in the Archives and Special Collections  at UConn. The University held a day-long event in honor of the donation with speakers and lunch. I cannot remember exactly how I managed to attend, but I think it's a long story involving me getting on a mailing list and taking advantage of it. There were panel discussions, maybe an art person from Penguin was there and maybe Mary Azarian, who we are fond of at my house. Sadly, that was three years before I began this blog, so I don't have details.

I can tell you, though, that in conjunction with the donation there was an exhibit of dePaola's fine art at the Benton. REMEMBERING TOMIE  I also went to that.

Which brings me back to Frida's Kitchen, dePaola's painting, which I saw yesterday. It turns out, that he was a Frida Khalo fan. And when I went hunting on the Internet for more about Tomie and Frida, I found that he illustrated a book about her, Frida Kahlo The Artist Who Painted Herself  by  Margaret Frith.

Additionally, he sometimes marked her birthday at his blog:

The Official Tomie dePaola Blog: Frida Kahlo 

The Official Tomie dePaola Blog: Frida Kahlo 

Now, I am more interested in art history than I am in art technique. But now that I know dePaola was interested in Kahlo, am I imagining an influence?