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Author Gail Gauthier's Reflections On Children's Books, Writing, And The Kidlit World
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1. November Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Lots happening with children's/YA lit in Connecticut this month, particularly because of the Connecticut Children's Book Fair. Plus Jeff Kinney is going to be here for a weekend. And there's a Fancy Nancy author appearance. Keep reading.

Sat., Nov. 8, Jeff Kinney, R. J. Julia Bookseller event at the Madison Congregational Church, Madison  Ticketed event. Times between 5:30 and 7:00 PM will be assigned to ticket holders.

Sat., Nov. 8, Norah Raleigh Baskin, Anika Denise, Christopher Denise, Anna Dewdney, Chris Grabenstein, Natalie Lloyd, Jean Marzollo, Barbara McClintock, Florence Minor, Wendell Minor, Pat Schories, Kevin Sherry, Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Connecticut Children's Book Fair, Storrs Check link for schedule

Sun., Nov. 9, Patrick Henry Bass, Jerry Craft, Jane Dyer, Jeff Kinney, Caragh O'Brien, Dan Poblocki, Judy Schachner, Lauren Tarshis, Len Vlahos, Connecticut Children's Book Fair, Storrs Check link for schedule

Fri., Nov. 14, Leslie Bulion, "Talk of the Towns," Indian Springs Golf Course, Middlefield Doors open at 6:30, Event runs from 7:00 to 9:00 PM with four speakers 

Fri., Nov. 14, Chris Van Allsburg, R. J. Julia Bookseller, Madison 5:30 PM Pre-register

Sat., Nov. 15, Patricia Dunn, Elm Street Books, New Canaan  Noon to 12:30 PM

Tues., Nov. 18, Victoria Kann, Barnes and Noble, Westport 6:00 PM

Wed., Nov. 19, Jane O'Connor, Pequot Library, Southport 4:30 to 6:00 PM

Sat., Nov. 29, Jan Brett, R.J. Julia event at IKEA, New Haven 10 AM Event free, purchase of The Animals' Santa from R.J. Julia or at the event required for admission to the book-signing line.

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2. I Did Some Reading For Halloween

I'm not big on reading holiday books these days. I'll often think that it would be nice to read something related to Christmas during December, but my mind runs to things like Hogfather and I never get around to reading even those. I ended up reading Zeke Meeks vs the Horrendous Halloween by D.L. Green with illustrations by Josh Alves because I heard on Facebook yesterday that the eBook edition was on sale for 99 cents. I love an eBook sale and Zeke Meeks is a series for young readers, something I was interested in a few years ago.

And thus I read a Halloween book.

ZM vs the Horrendous Halloween is a book for kids in the early grades. It involves a realistic story about one thing after another going wrong for Zeke on his big day, Halloween. Nothing is random here. Everything that's brought up about a character is used at some point. There is a dry, sly humor that works and good use of recurring material. I'm thinking, for instance, of the Princess Sing-Along lyrics, which I liked from the very beginning. "Don't feel that you have to change. It's okay to act real strange." 

Zeke Meeks vs. the Horrendous Halloween was quite a nice Halloween surprise because it's different from so many of the other books for this age group I've seen, books that didn't involve any kind of intelligible story because of the random action, characters, and so-called humor. If The Horrendous Halloween is representative of the rest of the series, other Zeke Meeks are worth giving a try.

Regarding the eBook edition: Some eBooks with illustrations don't translate terrifically to the eBook format. This one was just fine. The 99 cent sale is supposed to be continuing this week, though I don't know when the week ends. 


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3. Time Management Tuesday: Multi-tasking With Podcasts

Multi-tasking doesn't have a great reputation anymore. Some would suggest we stop doing it right now. I'm definitely not a fan.

Except when it comes to listening to podcasts.

I can't imagine sitting and listening to a podcast. Unless there's some fantastic footage, I can't even imagine sitting and watching a lot of those videos people make where they just look into a camera and talk. Talk? I can't imagine sitting and watching a Tedtalk.

But I can listen to all those things while I'm working in the kitchen. And I'm one of those people who will work in a kitchen for hours on a weekend, a weekend that is pretty much lost to other kinds of work. But if I can suck in writing- and reading-information while making bread, baking cookies, roasting asparagus, or any of the other things you might find me doing on a Sunday, we're talking a massive two-fer.

Yes, there is a wealth of info in oral form out there, but who has time to just sit in a chair and listen to it? Listen to it while you're doing other things. I have a Facebook friend who listens to podcasts on an iPhone while he's stacking wood. I have my laptop set up on the kitchen counter.

My most recent podcast listening experience was an interview with Joanna Penn. I've gotten some good ideas from Penn, one of which I may be discussing here later this week. Other podcast options:

Any other podcast suggestions for busy writers who want to listen while they're not at their workstations?

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4. Was "Cress" Worth Paying A Fine For?

It most definitely was.

Cress is the third in The Lunar Chronicles, which began with Cinder, a book I definitely enjoyed. Scarlet I wasn't quite so taken with. I'm back on board with Cress, though.

What Cress does really well is get readers into the story without leaving them mystified because this is part three of a serial and who remembers what happened in part two? Book One was a clear and clever Cyber Cinderella story. Book Two was an intriguing take on Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, but connecting it to Cinder's story a little awkwardly. The awkwardness is gone in Book Three.

Cress is a techie Rapunzel figure, trapped on a satellite for years doing the evil queens bidding. She is also an inexperienced romantic who believes the space cowboy she ends up leaving the satellite with is the hero of her dreams. It makes sense that she gets pulled into Cinder's scooby gang, which is plotting to save a Prince Charming from having to marry an evil Moon Queen who is planning to...

That's enough.

There's some romance going on in these books. It's pretty clear to me that all kinds of couples are going to come out of these Chronicles. I don't usually care for romance. But there are clever things going on with these people. Cress, for instance, is such an over-the-top sucker for romance and the object of her affections is so bad-boy questionable that there is almost a little parody going on there.

This is a serial, and I do wish I'd been able to read them in a binge instead of over a few years. That's pretty much my only complaint at this point.

Cress is a Cybils nominee in the YA Speculative Fiction category.


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5. Still Reading

No, I'm not incredibly slow. Nor am I bored to death with CressAu contraire. It's just that I do do other things.

Coming up soon on my reading radar: Cybils nominees.

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6. Why I've Got To Read, Read, Read "Cress" By Marissa Meyer

I was hit with a warning a couple of days ago from my library letting me know that the copy of Cress by Marissa Meyer that I'm reading was almost due. I finally got around this morning to renewing it on-line, but no luck. There's a hold on it. I'm at least two-thirds of the way through, so I'm going to bite the bullet, get hustling with my reading, and pay whatever fine I need to pay.

Why am I telling you this instead of writing what some might consider a real blog post? Well, I think it's very significant that someone wants this book. We don't have anyone beating a path to the YA section's door at our library. Until recently, we were still using one of those stamp-the-book systems for letting people know due dates. What that meant was that anyone could check the popularity of a book. I would take out new YA books, read them, see them back on the new books shelf, and there they'd stay. So I'd take a look at the date stamps. There wouldn't be any other than mine. Time would pass, and I'd look again. There'd be one. Maybe, but sometimes not.

So, yes, I think it's very significant that someone wants to read Cress badly enough to take it from me, when so many other books I've read were of no interest.

And now I must go get that book and get cracking with my reading. Time is money. Seriously.

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7. What? There's A Percy Jackson Problem?

In The Percy Jackson Problem in The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead discusses the old "so-long-as-the-kiddies-are-reading-they-will-move-on-and-up" strategy vs. the old "you-can't-start-'em-on-Shakespeare-too-young" theory. According to Mead, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books fall into the first category. Ouch.

Mead finishes her essay speculating about what will happen if reading books like Percy Jackson doesn't lead to young minds moving onward and upward to eagerly sucking up the Assigned Book List. "What if instead of urging them on to more challenging adventures on other, potentially perilous literary shores, it makes young readers hungry only for more of the palatable same?"

I have no problem with palatable. We live in a free country, kids! Go rogue with your reading!

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8. Time Management Tuesday: We're Three-fourths Of The Way Through The Year. Time For Another Check On Goals And Objectives

At the half-year point in June, I felt I'd done better than I expected to on this year's goals and objectives. At that time, I determined which goals I wanted to focus on for the rest of the year. Not so happy about how that's been going.

My plans in June for the rest of the year:

  • Goal 3. Finish a draft of the mummy book, I hope by September when I go on vacation. That's been a disaster, in large part because I became obsessed with a short piece I was working on in August (Goal 2), have been planning for an appearance I might be making in November, and working on another project.
  • Goal 2. Write short pieces. Anything. Yes, I did complete one short piece. May have spent too much time on it, in fact.
  • Goal 4.  Make submissions. I hope of some of the short pieces from Goal 2.Yes, I made a submission
  • Goal 5. Work on community building. See how things go with the writers' group, and it would be terrific if I could find a workshop or other program for later this year. This is the goal I've done the most on, but that also meant spending the most time on it, too. It's a goal that doesn't produce real work. I made three appearances this summer, that involved some rubbing of shoulders, and I'm very happy so far with the writers' group I've joined.
  • Goal 6. Continue marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. A contact I made this summer led to yesterday's review at Reduced Footprints, and I have some more leads for contacts.
Well, let's get a little Zenny here and remember that these past few months are in the past, and I need to think about the present. What can I do with the rest of my year?

  • Goal 1. Finish the revision of The Fletcher Farm Body I did finish this earlier this year, but guess what? I'm revising it again. This time I'm concentrating on making sure that scenes either advance the story or reveal new information and that chapters involve a change. (I got this idea from Rachel Aaron's 2,000 to 10,000.) Yes, I've become obsessed with this book, just as I was obsessed with the flash story I was working on in August.
  • Goal 4. Make submissions. I'd like to work on submitting some of the work I've already completed, so I'll focus on trying to match new marketing possibilities with manuscripts on hand.
  • Goal 5. Continue to work on community building Continue the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar, try to cover the Connecticut Children's Book Fair for my blog, I have created a new author talk that I may be presenting next month, attend my shiny new writers' group, continue to build my Twitter following.
  • Goal 6. Continue marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook I do have some ideas for contacts.

So three-quarters of the year is gone, and while I've been working away, really, I have,  I've wandered off goal. A bit. Some. Should I just give in to the What-the-Hell-Effect and spend the rest of the year lying in bed reading, which I kind of desperately want to do? No, I should not!  I have two and a half months left. That's a lot of units of time.

This Week's Most Interesting Ditched Item


Sorry I haven't uploaded the picture, but I had a great one of a twin mattress and spring set in the back of a pickup truck. I would have sent those things out of here at some point, but maybe not this month. Thank goodness for the purge.

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9. "Planet" Reviewed At Reduce Footprints

Saving the Planet & Stuff is reviewed today at Reduce Footprints, a blog dedicated to researching and sharing information about easy ways to do positive things for the Earth. My favorite line--"The story is also wonderful for adults, of all ages, as it touches on the challenges of living life as a "greenie", in a fun and interesting way."

Notice that blogger Cyndi runs a couple of activities designed to build the green community.

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10. Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar Update

Author Page McBrier will appear at the Rowayton Library in Rowayton this Thursday, October 23, from 3:30 to 4:30.

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11. The Next Time Someone Asks For Writing Advice...

...consider sending them to Susan Juby's take on successful people. Even though she never uses the word "writer."

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12. Price Isn't The Only Factor In Book Sales. You Also Need To Consider Time

In Telling 'Tails' in Gothenburg: Who Has Time For Publishing's Long One?  Porter Anderson discusses something many didn't consider when long-tail theory was first thrown out for discussion: Will people buy books they know they don't have time to read?


The idea behind the theory was that with most products (say books) a few items produce most of the sales. (Look at the left side of the graph on your right.) Most  items (like books) don't generate a lot of sales. They end up in the long, tail-like section of the graph at your right. However, if you consider all the items (like individual book titles) in that long tail, you're talking a lot of items. If you could find a way to sell a few of all those items in the long tail, you'd be talking a lot of items. Or, to put it in booky terms, even if you don't sell a lot of books for each individual title in that long tail, if you continue to sell them, you're still selling a lot of books.

However, when you're talking books, if you consider all the books in that long tail, you're also talking a lot of items to have to read. Anderson quotes publishing executive Marcello Vena as saying, "More than plain money, the available reading time is the single most relevant resource that affects book consumption...It cannot be overstressed that while the supply of digital books is unlimited…the demand is not, because it is constrained by time."

Anderson also talks about how in days of not-so-old even a book by a name writer from a big publisher "had a matter of mere weeks to find traction in the marketplace before losing its spot on a bookshop’s front table." But e-book authors' work "can live in shimmering cyber-beauty everlasting , the ebook-eternal, text without end, amen and amen." Sounds good doesn't it? But as Anderson says, it could be "decades before anybody can get around to reading your book. If anyone ever does. Granted, it will be there waiting, as new as the moment you pushed the “publish button.” But so will everybody else’s books."

Very interesting article, particularly if you enjoy being depressed.



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13. Environmental Book Club

How does a cookbook fit in with my interest in environmental books that provide an immersion in some kind of natural  experience? Pam McElroy, one of the editors of The Green Teen Cookbook, Recipes for all Seasons Written by Teens, for Teens, (Laurane Marchive is the other) writes that "When it comes to food, going green" is, in great part, about shopping seasonally and buying locally. That's a lifestyle, a daily experience. McElroy also says, "Our eating habits form such an important part of our daily lives that questions of what we eat are transformed into questions of who we are. We don't say, 'I eat a vegetarian diet.' We say, 'I am a vegetarian.'"

This cookbook actually includes essays. In my experience, you have to be a bit of a foodie to read essays on cooking, and I don't know how many teenagers have that much of a commitment yet. But I very much like that editors McElroy and Marchive respect their potential readers enough to include them. They also do some neat things with taking the same recipe and changing it according to the seasons and the availability of fresh ingredients.

The recipes here include basics like French toast and tuna salad, swing into your more veggie type things (fried tofu with peanut dipping sauce), and take a shot at what some of us think of as more demanding fare (risotto with arugula pesto). The Green Teen Cookbook is a classy work that takes its subject seriously while also recognizing that people need to know how to cook regular food.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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14. Time Management Tuesday: The Write Jar As Motivator

I was able to sneak onto Blogger this morning and check my e-mail, but I'm having trouble getting other places on-line. (The new modem is here in the house. We're hoping to get it out of the package tomorrow.) I'm cobbling this post together with the help of my iPhone, which can zip me around the Internet.

I heard about write jars at the 10-Minute Novelist Facebook page. Vickie S. Miller's blog post What's Your Reward? #Writejar describes how it works. Write jars are similar to swear jars or any other kind of system you create to either fine yourself for a behavior you want to avoid (swearing) or pay yourself for a behavior you want to encourage (writing).

I believe that in the case of write jars, this would be considered an external support for willpower. You're using something outside yourself, a money reward, to help you stay on task. (Timers are also external supports.)  I'm not aware of any research on how well monetary support works, and given my crippling Internet problems this week, I'm not going to be able to hunt for any. That will be another blog post. Vickie had only been using a write jar for a couple of weeks at the time of her post, so we won't know for a while how it ends up working for her.

If I were going to try this, I think I would use a simpler system than Vickie is. Keeping track of the different cash amounts for the different types of writing would be unwieldy for me. But like anything else related to managing time, everyone should fine tune systems to suit their own needs.

This Week's Most Interesting Ditched Item 

I just tried to upload a picture relating to my October purge, but that's not going to be happening. But it was a Swiss cowbell. I kid you not. We had a Swiss cowbell here. Brought back from the Land of Heidi by in-laws a few decades back. I mention that because I want to make sure everyone knows that I wasn't responsible for bringing it into this country, just into my house. I was able to unload it on my sister-in-law. 




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15. What Did I Do To Offend The Internet?

We're having serious Internet problems Chez Gauthier. In fact, I'm posting this quickly right now while we have access. (Sometimes we can get to some sites but not others, sometimes we can do nothing.) Posting may be spotty for a while until the new modem arrives and, presumably, works. If it doesn't, this could go on longer.

And, yes, I have a computer guy. How do people who don't have one manage?

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16. Kidlitosphere News

I have not been staying on top of the Kidlitosphere Central news. I've been aware of it, just not passing it on in a timely manner.

As it turns out, this year's Kidlitcon is taking place today and tomorrow in Sacramento, California.  Those of us who aren't there can follow what's going on with the #kidlitcon hashtag on Twitter.

We have less than a week left to nominate this year's books for the Cybils Awards. You can already check out the books nominated to date. I'll be trying to read off the lists later this year.

I believe that I'm now caught up. For now.

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17. Environmental Book Club

I've said before that my idea of an environmental book is one that immerses readers in some kind of natural experience. I'm not sure that Lifetime, by Lola M. Schaefer with illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal,  really does that. As the Kirkus reviewer said of it, "Is this book about the natural world? Counting? Statistics? Solving math word problems?" But the natural world is in there.

I can't say I know a lot about math. But what seems to be going on in Lifetime is an introduction to the concept of counting as well as the recognition that counting things is part of life. This isn't a traditional counting book, as in "1 papery egg sac," "2 caribou," "3 alpacas." It's just about counting. You can count the number of antlers a caribou will grow and shed in a lifetime. (10) You can count the number of beads a rattlesnake will add to its rattle. (40)

There are all kinds of animals out there, and you can count things related to them.

Hmm. Maybe there is an immersive experience here, one in which we take a human created activity and apply it to the natural world that animals live in.

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18. Gail Gauthier Visits James Thurber or Pictures From My Vacation!

Yes, I'm still talking about my vacation. Have I mentioned that I had a great time?

While planning this thing, I decided that I wanted to visit an author's home. Pretty much any author. Seriously. I googled Ohio and authors.

And guess who was born in Ohio and whose early home is open to the public. Yes! Jimmy T! Well, we have more of a Mr. Thurber and Who? kind of relationship.

James Thurber was still a very big deal in my school days. I was quite excited about hitting Columbus and visiting his house. I own three Thurber books and reread what some call his autobiography (I think it's more a collection of memoirish essays, myself), My Life and Hard Times,
in the car last month. No, My World and Welcome To It was a television show.

This is me standing in front of the home Thurber and his family lived in during the My Life and Hard Times period. Sigh. I am wearing the sweater I lost on the road. Hard times, hard times.

Thurber House is a terrific spot. The Thurber House organization both preserves the past and maintains an active present with all kinds of literary and educational programs.

Each room has only one modest sign giving information. But it was terrific information about living in the house. For instance, this is a Victorian era building, but the Thurbers were living in it post 1900. Victorian front parlors were changing by that time, I read. People were using them for more than company. Kitchens and dining rooms were the spots in a home that were most impacted by style changes. And in James' room there was a sign describing how the women's magazines of the era advised mothers to decorate their sons' rooms.

Do you know any of those families that likes to go through museums pointing at things and saying, "We've got one of those at home...And one of those...And look! I've got that thing. But better?" Yeah, I come from one of those. And I married into another.

This sewing cabinet to the left that I saw at Thurber House? I've got one just like it in my office. It came from my mother-in-law who had two of them. Came from some other family member, I'm sure. At the Thurber House, they have a sewing machine on top of it. I use mine for holding stationery. I call it the stationery cabinet. The younger members of my family don't even know what the thing really is.

Then this table to the right, which the Thurber House people have a typewriter on? Interesting story. These things are known as library tables, by the way. I don't know why. Anyway, ours was in my mother's house when I was growing up, but one of my sisters doesn't remember it. Then my understanding was that the table came from my grandmother Gauthier's house. But no one else in the family has any memory of that. Which is why it is appropriate that I should be the one to have the table. No one else.           .

We're using it for a changing table now.

So, anyway, the Thurber House is great. And those educational programs I mentioned? I learned that James Thurber and I had relatives with similar taste in furniture.


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19. Time Management Tuesday: Blogging The Overwhelm, Conclusion

I am beginning this blog post in the solarium of a lovely lodge that would make a great place for a writers' retreat. Unfortunately, last night I was so into this place and its wonderful writer retreat possibilities,  that I totally forgot about writing this Time Management Tuesday post. And, thus, I am a day late.

Okay, reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte was a fascinating experience because of the very different ways she and I look at the time issue. She is interested in support. I am interested in skills. At the end of her book, Schulte briefly covers some of the things she's doing differently now to help her manage time. She talks about "pulses," for instance, which are similar to the units that many time management people recommend. She describes the Pomodoro Technique in a footnote.

What About John Robinson And Leisure Time?


Another fascinating part of reading this book is that it didn't cover what I was looking for. What grabbed my interest in the articles I read about this book was Schulte's coverage of John Robinson's contention that we have far more leisure time than we think we do. Schulte's response to that was that the time he claimed was her leisure time didn't feel like leisure time. 

Here is a Gail life experience that I think illustrates her point:

When my children were young, I, like so many other mothers in my town, took them to the local beach in the summer for a couple of weeks of swimming lessons. For at least one year when they were in grade school, we'd hang out at the beach for hours, eating lunch, reading magazines (in my case), catching minnows with nets, digging in the sand, and planting all kinds of plastic tubing brought from home.

I saw the swimming lesson hangout as being the closest I'd ever come to owning a lake house. It was like going away. After reading Schulte's book, I realize that many woman would have perceived those days as childcare, since, technically, I was supposed to be taking care of my kids. For those women, it would have just been more work.

Why does how that time was perceived matter? Because the parent who sees hauling two boys, lunch, towels, sunscreen, magazines, shovels, buckets, and leftover construction pipes to the lake as a glorious summer getaway is going to go home feeling as if she's been on vacation for the afternoon. That will have an impact on how she's able to use the rest of her day. The parent who sees hauling two boys, lunch, towels, sunscreen, magazines, shovels, buckets, and leftover construction pipes to the lake as childcare/work is going to go home feeling overwhelmed. And that will have an impact on how she's able to use the rest of her day.

And The Writing Connection, Gail?


I'm not sure. But if I've got 30+ hours of leisure time that I don't realize is leisure time, I'd sure like to be able to repurpose some of it for work. I suspect many other writers would, too.

I'm thinking that I want to try to find more on John Robinson, who has been taking a bashing over his spin on women and time. And when I get back from vacation, I may try to keep a time journal. If I have the time.

Speaking of vacation, I am finishing this blog post while looking out at the mighty Monongahela River outside of Pittsburgh. Yes. That's leisure time. I own it.

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20. October Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Wouldn't you know it. I go on vacation, and we have a big month of children's lit events in Connecticut. Highlights are a roundtable discussion in Westport and a book tour for Sandra Horning's new release.

Thurs., Oct. 2, Tommy Greenwald, Nora Baskin, Elise Broach, Ramin Ganeshram, Victoria Kann, Alan Katz, Lauren Tarshis, and Hans Wilhelm, Barnes & Noble, Westport 7:00 PM  Roundtable discussion

Sat., Oct. 4, Leslie Woods, Bank Square Books, Mystic 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Mon., Oct. 6, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Bank Square Books, Mystic 4:00 to 6:00 PM

Tues.,  Oct. 7, Tony Abbott, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 PM

Tues., Oct. 7, Janet Tashjian, Barnes & Noble, Milford 6:30 PM

Sat., Oct. 11, Martha Seif Simpson, Norwich Free Academy Book Expo, NFA Atrium, next to Slater Auditorium 3:30 to 5:30 

Sat., Oct. 11, Brian Lies, Bank Square Books, Mystic 10:30 AM

Sat., Oct. 11, Wendell Minor, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 3:00 PM

Sun., Oct. 12, Sandra Horning, Bank Square Books, Mystic 11:00 AM

Wed., Oct. 15, Sandra Horning, Chaplin Public Library, Chaplin 10:00 AM Storytime

Thurs., Oct. 16, Sandra Horning, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM Storytime

Thurs., Oct. 16, Neal Shusterman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Sat., Oct. 18, Cammie McGovern, Amy Zhang, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM

Sat., Oct. 18, Talia Aikens-Nunez, Mitchell Library, New Haven 3:00 PM 

Fri., Oct. 24, Sandra HorningBarnes & Noble, Manchester – 6:30 pm Storytime with Spot

Thurs., Oct. 30, Sandra Horning, UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, Storrs,  6:30 pm Book launch



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21. Time Management Tuesday: Be More Discriminating About Reading

What I Learned On My September Vacation


When I got my own personal laptop and was no longer sharing computers with family members, I became very excited over bookmarking sites. I bookmarked a lot of them. I classified them. I stockpiled the things and fantasized about reading them. I looked forward to reading them on this vacation I just took.

I did read a great many of them. And what I found was that in many cases I didn't need to have bothered. A lot of these things were repeats of information I'd already seen elsewhere. There is only so much information out there on writing and marketing, but there are a lot of blogs and websites with writers who have just discovered this stuff and think it is newsworthy.

How much time could I save myself by being a lot more discriminating about my reading material? Well, I decided, let's see.

Personal Precedent For Creating More Time By Cutting Reading


Quite honestly, I've been cutting reading for years.
  • Giving up. Yes, yes, I used to be one of those readers who had to finish any book she started. It was an obsession or some kind of moral code. When did things change? I don't know. Maybe around the time I started hearing stories about a million books being published every year. (I don't know if that's actually true, by the way.) Which may have coincided with me reading one too many bad books. Which may have been around the time I realized life is short. I should be fussier about how I spend my time.
  • Skimming. I also skim books, particularly those that have some significance in my field but I just don't like. Skimming definitely lets you hit the high points in a work, get a feeling for its world, and just find out what happens. "That's a skimmer," is a phrase I often use, but only to myself. (Did I just write that out loud?)
  • I gave up reading listicles a year or two ago. There's something I've never missed. Seriously, ever seen a listicle called "The Top 10 Cures For Cancer" or "5 Ways To Find God?" Okay, you probably have. In which case, you know what I mean.

How Can I Cut More?


  • Impose Limitations. Some time management specialists suggest making to-do lists on post-it notes in order to force yourself to be reasonable about what you can do in a day. I'm going to try limiting myself to just three to five bookmarks in any category. I want to add a new one? I have to take one off, either by reading the thing or just dropping it.
  • Give Them A Chance To Make Their Case. To make the bookmark list, a post will have to meet a two-paragraph test. It has to prove to me in that time that it has material new to me or compelling in some new way.
  • Size Matters. Personally, I believe the Internet is different. Material written for it should be concise. Otherwise, it should be in The New Yorker. Over the years, I've moved away from blogs that regularly ran long. I'm not saying I'll never read a magazine article on-line, but if I do, it won't be a random act.
  • If You Haven't Read It In A Year... Ever hear that advice about getting rid of clothes you haven't worn in a year? Yeah, I could do that with bookmarks.

Seriously, How Much Time Do You Expect To Gain With This, Gail?


Hmm. Maybe not that much. But I won't have a long list of bookmarked sites hanging over my head, which can only be a good thing.

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22. Vacation Reading

I blew through the two most recent issues of The Horn Book while riding in the car off and on for more than two weeks last month.

The July/August issue was also the annual awards issue. This is never one of my favorites, but this year it ran an article by Elissa Gershowitz called Newbery 2014 that was essentially about books that didn't make the cut. It has just a little bit of the tone I saw this past year in articles about why the hell Tatiana Maslany didn't get an Emmy nomination for every clone she plays on Orphan Black. Usually the awards coverage in The Horn Book is incredibly respectful and, um, maybe just a little bit warm and fuzzy? I liked this change of pace.

Reviews I found interesting:

A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka. I was reading the review and thought, Gee, this sounds like The Handmaid's Tale. The reviewer thought so, too. That's not a bad thing.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang. Because it's by Gene Luen Yang.

Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth. I liked the panda.

The September/October Horn Book carried a story on Robert McCloskey by Leonard Marcus and Folklore vs. Fakelore by Jane Yolen.

Reviews:

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. Maybe The Penderwicks for guys?

Very Little Red Riding Hood by Teresa Heapy, illustrations by Sue Heap.  A toddler Red Riding Hood. Hahahahahah.

Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh, illustrations by Wendell Minor. I like art books. I saw a couple of Hoppers at the Carnegie Museum of Art, though, and I was kind of disappointed. Does Minor do him better?

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23. Promo Friday: To Blog Or Not To Blog

I've been blogging for twelve years. As far as I'm concerned, there is no question as to whether or not I'm going to blog. I do have doubts as to whether new writers should start blogging now, though.

When I started, I found six children's literature blogs on-line. Now, between review sites and children's/YA authors, I'm guessing there are thousands. Just look at the litbloggers who have registered with Kidlitosphere Central. And the writer bloggers who have registered with it. Oh, and here are some more bloggers with Kidlitosphere Central. And how many children's lit blogs of all kinds are out there who haven't heard of Kidlitosphere Central? Yet we're all competing with one another for readers.

The number of blogs has escalated. The number of readers, not so much. Many blogs that have been around a while have seen a decrease in activity. Blogging is like publishing. You hear about bloggers with readership that skyrocketed in just a few months. But then there are all the others.

Kirsten Cappy of Curious City, which does "theme-based marketing for children’s authors, illustrators, and publishers,"  is well-known in New England, if not the country. She is definitely a fan of blogging for writers. In her blog post, SCBWI Whisper Pines, she answers questions from participants in last winter's Whispering Pines Retreat. Over and over again, she says things like, "Gosh, my answer is always to blog" and "I hate to sound like a broken record, but I guess if you have very limited time and have to focus on one thing, it would be blogging deeper."

Actually, she's kind of encouraging, making points that a blog post has the potential of reaching more people than a public appearance and is out there waiting for people to find it while an appearance is done and over. I don't know how often that happens, but right this minute I'm kind of pumped up.
 

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24. In Case You Want To Get Your Young Ones Started On Shakespeare

While I was on vacation, I happened upon some copies of Shakespeare Stories by Andrew Matthews. I'm kind of a sucker for kid versions of the Bard's work, though I can't claim to read many of them. I seem to like to know they exist.

Earlier this year, Matthews wrote Top 10 Shakespeare Books for Children for The Guardian. He places Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare at the top of the list. I have a copy but still haven't opened it since I mentioned it back in 2010.

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25. Time Management Tuesday: Less Stuff To Spend Time Taking Care Of, More Time To Do Other Things

Earlier this year, I heard about the Environmental Disorder study, which found that a disorganized environment can undermine impulse control. Lack of impulse control is what leads one to hunt for pictures of George Clooney's wedding instead of working. In August I read that owning a lot of stuff is time consuming because you have to take care of it. And then just last month I read that one paragraph in Overwhelmed about the Danes not buying and saving a lot of stuff. And, according to Overwhelmed, the Danes are good with time.

The Plan For October


I'm a big believer in managing all our time, not just our work time. Hunting through piles of possessions... shoving things out of the way...if stuff both undermines self-control and takes up time, then stuff is something I'd like to have less of. So this month, I'm following the example of Joshua Fields Millburn who got rid of a possession a day for thirty days. I started last Wednesday.

This isn't that big a stretch for me, to be honest. We've kept a "church tag sale" box and a "library book sale" bag for years. I'm not talking about something I'm going to find painful. I have been concerned, though, that because we try to unload regularly, I won't have 30 days worth of meaningless material to offload on relatives or the community. However, this first week I could have done more than one item a day, and one day I did.

This means that, like so many others, I'm living with pileup that may be impacting my control and costing me time I'd like to use on other things. Like writing, for instance.

I will, of course, issue a report on how my month goes. Hmm. A month. That's a unit of time. A long one, but a unit nonetheless.

This Week's Most Interesting Ditched Item


When my kids were little, I asked for these walkie-talkies for my birthday because I read a book that suggested to me that we could use them for playing hide-and-seek. I think we used them once, which is why they look like new. Not only is my heart not broken to see these things go, the drawer they were in had a wealth of other junk I can get rid of. (I just want to go on record as saying I wasn't the one who saved all those swizzle sticks.)

I could end up with an empty drawer in my kitchen by the time I'm done.

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