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Author Gail Gauthier's Reflections On Children's Books, Writing, And The Kidlit World
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Work is piling up, as it often does.
- It will be time soon to pull May's Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar together.
- I have some more Saving the Planet/Earth Day promotion to do this month, and it's coming up soon. Tomorrow for some of it, in fact.
- I've been working on an essay I'd like to finish, and then I should be looking for markets to submit it to. (I have a couple in mind, so I'm not writing this thing blind.)
- Speaking of submitting, I've been working on submissions for weeks. What about that?
- Last weekend I realized that another May Days opportunity is coming up and that I have a two-fer project I'd like to work on then, one that involves producing new work and time management. I need to do some prep for that, if I want to make any real progress.
- World Book Night is next week, and I have to pick up the books I'm giving out. I think there may have been a glitch in the order, and I've been hunting for e-mails related to it today.
- In June, I'll be speaking on Ethan Allen at the Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington, Vermont, and I want to start bringing myself up to speed on that starting in May. We're taking a long weekend up north for that, so I'll have to find us a place to stay soon.
- I have Computer Guy working on some logos for Original Content, and I need to do something about starting to use them.
Then a few days ago I remembered that Easter is next Sunday, a holiday I try to observe with a family event. In addition to all the work that entails, I've been having trouble getting a count on the number of people who will be here. Oh, I'm also supposed to be planning a multi-week trip for September.
That's when I started to panic about time. It was the pile on of personal work onto work work that did it. During this mini-crisis I started thinking about Charles Finch's point about amateur writers spreading themselves too thin
. Pick some things to work on, Gail, and stick with them.
And, better yet, give them some units of time
when they have you all to themselves.
- I'll start using evening units for the CCLC next week. There's a whole week and a half after Easter. Huzzah!
- Tomorrow a unit will be devoted to getting the Saving the Planet & Stuff giveaway started for Earth Day. Before the weekend, another unit will be used to go over again what I have to do to lower the STP&S price for next week and deciding when this weekend I should do it.
- The essay I've been working on for over a month I've been writing in sprints. It's quite far along, and by giving it some forty-five minute units over the next week, I should be able to finish it by the end of the month easily. And maybe spend some time determining the best submission plan.
- That submission project is pretty much done, too. I just have to wait, which I can easily do while working on something else.
- I used a couple of units of time yesterday prepping for May Days. I just have to do something on it as many days as I can. Some reading is involved, and I might be able to work on that on weekends.
- I'm stopping at the bookstore to try to pick up my World Book Night books on my way home from tai chi tonight. (No special trip out.) I may find that there are no books, in which case, this is done!!!
- The Ethan Allen talk can wait until into next month. Once I have some of these other things done, assigning it units will be easier. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
- Logos--That's not critical. Yeah. Let's save that for next week at the earliest.
- And Easter, well, you don't want to hear about that. But that's started.
The old unit system helps with panic because it at least makes you feel that you've broken an overwhelming job into doing bits. In addition, planning units is a lot like creating objectives to meet a goal.
In this case, the goal is getting through the next week.
And now, if you will excuse me, I just took a break and am about to start another work unit. This one will involve that May Days project I want to get ready for.
I have been a fan of Flavia de Luce
, the eleven-year-old protagonist of a series of adult mysteries set in England in the 1950s, for a long time. I've also wondered why she hasn't received more attention from the YA world
. Her most recent adventure, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
, isn't my favorite, but it is a great example of why Flavia, created by Alan Bradley
, is such an incredible combination of adult and even children's fiction elements.
Flavia has an incredibly unique, sharp voice, and she's extremely knowledgeable about a sophisticated subject, chemistry. While she jumps on her bike and has the kinds of adventures that are the stuff of children's books, that voice that adult readers love so much might not be acceptable to child readers. Adults like her because a child shouldn't sound like she does or do the things she does. Child readers might just find her unbelievable. Adults don't care about believing her. Adults like that this brilliant child knows nothing about sex. In this most recent book, she thought she could use her massive knowledge of science to bring someone back from the dead. It was a childish belief that adult readers would find touching. Child readers, on the other hand, might not get that this attempt on Flavia's part was more about character than plot.
I also suspect that Flavia isn't an entirely reliable narrator when it comes to her family. She perceives her sisters as hating her, but they have routinely come through for her over the course of the series. And in this volume it's clear that she hasn't understood her father's behavior toward her. I'm not aware of a lot of unreliable narrators in children's books or even YA.
In all these books a mom has been missing--a classic children's book situation. In The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
, we get an actual dead parent. Children's literature is littered with those. What is really fascinating about Vaulted Arches
, though, is that here we get a child suddenly learning that her family has a special function and that she is chosen--not those others--to be part of it. This is a cliche of children's fantasy, and there is almost a whiff of fantasy about Flavia at that point.
So what have we got here? While these definitely aren't children's books, do they have enough children's elements to bring young readers into the world of adult reading?
Alex Waugh of The Children's War
has also been writing about Flavia
Since the Weekend Writer began as a sort of training opportunity for beginning writers, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss Charles Finch's guest post, The 5 Differences Between Professional And Amateur Novelists, at Writer's Digest. Finch is the author of the Charles Lenox mysteries (I've read at least two of them), making him a professional.
Finch explains his points in greater detail, but basically he argues that the amateur and professional writers differ regarding tools, patience, focus, habits, and practice. Tools, patience, and focus are of most interest to me.
- Tools: Professionals are interested in nitty gritty aspects of process. Amateurs haven't gotten to that point yet.
- Patience: Amateurs suffer from what has become known as the "rush to publish." Professionals have had the experience of recognizing problems in a manuscript after it has sat for a while. They want to find and fix those problems, not publish them.
- Focus: Amateur writers often don't focus, spreading themselves too thin over an array of projects.
Today's lesson, then, is:
- Create a process and pay attention to it
- Accept that writing requires time, then take the time to do it
- Stay on task.
To mark the passing of writer Sue Townsend, I am republishing a couple of Original Content posts about her fantastic creation, Adrian Mole. The first post below was the second one I wrote for this blog.
March 7, 2002 Speaking of Bridget Jones...
...as we were yesterday, gives me an opportunity to bring up two Bridgetish YA books I'm fond of. Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging
by Louise Rennison was compared to Bridget
at the time it came out because, well, it's the funny diary of a British female. The big difference is that Georgia, the main character, is a teenager. Thus, being self-absorbed is much more normal for her than it is for Bridget, who is thirty if she's a day. Boyfriend and clothing problems get old fast with adults. Get a life, Bridget. But boyfriends and clothes are a more significant part of a teenager's world. Georgia never wears out her welcome, the way Bridget does. The Adrian Mole Diaries
by Sue Townsend contains two books originally published in the late 1980s/early 90s. The first book begins on New Year's Day with a list. Sound familiar? So does Bridget
. The books are supposed to have been wildly popular in England. Sound familiar? So was Bridget
. But, remember, Adrian was first. Hmmm. In addition to having a teenage main character, the Adrian Mole
books are also deeper than Bridget
. Adrian comments on what was going on in England at the time. High unemployment and immigration, for instance. That's social commentary, which holds a reader's interest a whole lot better than "Oh, how many cigarettes have I had today? That can't be good."
A question: Were the Adrian Mole books originally published as children's books?
June 13, 2006 Your First BAFAB Recommendation
I want to make my Buy A Friend A Book Week
recommendations YA books that aged ones can also enjoy. My first two choices, sadly, are out of print. That's okay, though, because this book may even be better.
Before there was Georgia Nicholson
, before there was Bridget Jones
, there was Adrian Mole
by Sue Townsend
. And his adventures, taken together as The Adrian Mole Diaries
are available for young and old alike to enjoy.
Adrian is supposed to have been huge in England back in his day, and Helen Fielding has admitted to being influenced. So you could call him the boy who launched the chicklit journal craze. He is, however, significantly deeper than his female followers, though still very funny. I have been a fan
since discovering him in a local middle school library.
Quite honestly, I don't know if this book was originally published as YA or if it is being promoted as YA now. It deserves to be better known in this country and could easily be a cross-over book. So go out and buy it for a teenager or adult you know.
The Nature Generation announced its shortlist for the 2014 Green Earth Book Awards. The award is given to books that "best convey the environmental stewardship message to youth" and "inspire children to grow a deeper appreciation, respect, and responsibility for their natural environment."
Winners will be announced on Earth Day.
Scarlet is the second book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, which began with Cinder, a book I was very taken with. Cinder is a futuristic cyberpunk take on Cinderella. Scarlet kind of does the same thing with Red Riding Hood.
I say "kind of" because this is still Cinder's story, and for a long time Scarlet had her own story that was barely connected with Cinder's. Readers swing between the two storylines. Scarlet's is a very traditional woman attracted to a bad guy stranger and getting him to help her with a quest tale. Cinder's story is the traditional royalty in disguise, birthright stolen from her thing. But I'm already committed to Cinder because of Cinder, so I liked her part of the book better.
Oh, look! The next book in this series, Cress, has already been published. And, gasp, there are short story prequels for this series. So much to read.
Did you read Procrastination Is In Your Genes at CNN Health and everywhere else on the Internet today? Did you even see it? Not to worry. I did.
A recent study (using those favorite study subjects, twins) "concluded that procrastination can indeed be genetic, and that it seems to have some genetic overlap with impulsivity." We've covered here at OC the impact of lack of impulse control on self-discipline. Yeah, it leads us to choose to chase after shiny stories about celebrities who haven't aged well instead of knocking off a thousand words a day. And that sounds a lot like procrastination.
The CNN article makes two interesting points. Impulsiveness gave the people of the past who possessed it an evolutionary advantage, presumably because those who could impulsively take off when they saw a wild animal coming for them had the best chance of getting away. Procrastination, the article says, "may be more of a modern phenomenon, since we now focus on long-term goals..."
We can focus on long-term goals because basic survival isn't as big an issue as it was centuries ago. Long-term goals are a luxury of a modern day life that doesn't require racing from wild beasts or rushing to get our share of food from a limited pool of the stuff. But most of us are descended from people who were impulsive, which is why they survived to reproduce. We don't need to run from wild beasts on a daily basis, so we use our impulsiveness to grab at Internet stories, home improvement shows, baking projects, shopping, and whatever else our hearts desire.
Writers, by the way, are modern people who particularly need to focus on long-term goals. But we're as likely as anyone else to have inherited impulsiveness from our ancestors. Check out your relatives to see if anyone else in your family has an impulsiveness/procrastination thing going on. If it looks as if it's in your genes, turn to The Procrastinator's Digest for help.
The 8th Annual Literacy Essentials Conference will be held this Saturday, April 12, at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. Children's authors PadmaVenkatraman and Spring Herman will be signing books from 2:00 to 3:00. Both writers will also be presenters of breakout sessions. Venkatraman will be co-presenting For Better or Verse: Selecting and Using Stories in Verse to Implement Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Hermann will be presenting the session Using Non-fiction for Uniting Multi-racial Student Communities: A Dialogue Between Authors and Teachers.
This conference is directed toward educators and education students.
I'm not entirely sure. I'm going to be working on Twitter for a while.
How To Deal With All The Tweets
I read quite some time ago that Twitter users only read what is on the screen in front of them at any particular time. Otherwise, all the material the people they're following tweet all day is pretty much lost to them. That's my experience. I'm probably not seeing a fraction of what's in my stream.
In Twitter Tips for Beginnings: Everything I Wish I Knew About Twitter When I Starte
d Kevan Lee advises putting your followers into lists. Then at any one particular time you can call up just one list and read tweets in an organized way. How often are you going to do that and how far back are you going to read? I don't know. But it's a way to do some reading, anyway.
Do You Really Want To Follow Everyone?
Lee also suggests following anyone who follows you in order to build as big a following as you can. Some of his commenters disagreed, suggesting focusing on quality rather than quantity. I've read that it's considered good manners to follow anyone who follows you, but you shouldn't expect it of those you follow. I'll follow friends and interesting writers and bloggers who follow me, but I avoid people who are marketing products for writers or hardselling their books. I really am interested in content. Remember, it's hard to keep up with all the tweets, anyway, so you don't want to make your job harder by filling your stream with sales pitches.
What About Hashtags##??
Quite honestly, I was going to cover hashtags, but I read something today that suggests that I may not have a real good grasp on how to use them. My Twitter life is evolving. I'll cover this again another Friday.
I'm restarting the Environmental Book Club this Earth Day month with When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story by Linda Crotta Brennan. This is a lovely book with all kinds of illustrations--photographs, drawings, charts, and text boxes. I feel a little superficial talking first thing about how the book looks, but appearances make a book easier to read, particularly a nonfiction book. When Rivers Burned was also brought out by a smaller publisher, and its appearance is an example of how nice a product they can turn out.
Crotta Brennan does a good job here laying out her material as a narrative. She begins with the pre-Earth Day problems that led to the activism that led to the political action that led to Earth Day. It's not just an environmental book, it's a good beginner nonfiction book. I can see this book being recommended to upper elementary students so they can learn what nonfiction should be and how they should read it.
Only one quibble here--No footnotes or endnotes or bibliography. However, over the last ten years or so I've been seeing nonfiction without footnotes. So there may be something going on in nonfiction publishing that I'm just not aware of.
Transparency issue: I do know Linda Crotta Brennan in a say-hello-at-a-conference sort of way. I got this book through the library, not through Linda or her publisher.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be observing Earth Day all month in an irregular sort of way. I'll be bringing the Environmental Book Club back to life, putting the Kindle edition of Saving the Planet & Stuff on sale at a reduced price the week of April 20 through 26, and offering a free copy to a lucky commenter on Earth Day, itself, April 22.
Speaking of Saving the Planet & Stuff and all things environmental, I learned earlier this year that the original edition of that book was included on an ALA list of Science-Themed Novels. It's classified under Landforms and the Environment.
Landforms and the Environment. Does this mean I could be on the Big Bang Theory?
Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and I'll be observing it off and on all month. Yeah. Earth Day Month. Today I'll begin by stretching the meaning of environment and pondering whether our immediate environment, and lack of order within it, can have an impact on how we use time.
First off, I'd argue that without a doubt lack of order in our immediate environment will be a time buster just because it makes it difficult for us to keep track of things. Time gets sucked up hunting for things in the office or even going out to buy more of what we can't find. That's a practical matter.
But last month in a Chicago Tribune article, Self-control, Smells, and Spending, Gregory Karp wrote about some recent studies that concluded that our immediate environment has a less obvious impact, as well. The studies, he says, indicate that a "disorganized environment can leave you feeling out of control, which drains your reserves for future self-control, leading to poor decisions including impulse spending." What does impulse spending have to do with time management? It's not the spending we should be concerned with, it's the draining self-control or discipline. If a disorganized environment makes people feel out of control enough to impulse shop, won't it make us feel out of control enough to shake up our work schedules? In fact, according to ScienceDaily, the researchers on one of the studies Karp refers to, Environmental Disorder Leads to Self-Regulatory Failure, were "looking for changes in behavior like impulse spending as well as poor mental performance or reduced stamina on tasks that require advanced thinking skills."
"Reduced stamina on tasks that require advanced thinking skills"--that's what we're concerned with.
Environmental Disorder (Boyoun (Grace) Chae of the University of British Columbia and Rui (Juliet) Zhu of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in China) is quoted all over the Internet. A blog at The Harvard Business Review picked up this point in the study: "...people who sat by a messy desk that was scattered with papers felt more frustrated and weary and took nearly 10% longer to answer questions in a color-and-word-matching task, in comparison with those who were seated by a neatly arranged desk."
The irony here for those of us interested in managing time is that maintaining order takes time. I have set up a new work station for my new(ish) laptop without ever really organizing the spot where I put it. Doing that would eat into my work time. But things are closing in on me, as you can probably see from the pictures accompanying this article. At some point, the disorder will reach some kind of tipping point, and I'll have to do something about it in order to continue working. Last year I had a system set up by which I spent 15 minutes in the morning doing some filing and pick-up so this kind of thing wouldn't happen. That fell apart when I had a health issue earlier this year and wasn't working regularly. I need to get some kind of clean-up routine back into my life to address this kind of problem in an efficient, timely way. (You can bet that will become another Time Management Tuesday post.)
Another issue relating to disorder in our immediate environment is that many writers work in their homes. How "immediate" does "immediate work environment" mean in that case? Not many of us have someone coming in to do laundry or clean bathrooms or...Well, anyone who works at home in any way knows where I'm going with this. "...disorganized environment can leave you feeling out of control, which drains your reserves for future self-control." Everyone's tolerance for disorder is different, but I will admit that sometimes having to walk through my kitchen on my way to the office drains my reserves.
I'd also like to point out that over the last few decades the value of homemaking has taken a few hits. Letting housework go and not being a perfectionist about it are the center pieces of many articles on how to manage time and stress. How often is the traditional suburban housewife some kind of heavy/bad guy on TV shows or at least a laughable cliche? (Not Alison on Orphan Black, by the way. I love her.) And, yet, without the order they once maintained many of us find ourselves in a disorganized environment that often drains our reserves of self-control.
Well, I've used up a couple of units of time writing this blog post, and now I need to use my break to fold the towels I washed yesterday. They're up in my living room. Talk about disorder.
Okay, I'm talking about the January/February issue and not the current one. But if you haven't read it, you're going to have trouble finding it now. Not to worry. I will share favorite bits and and a few thoughts.
The Articles What's New About New Adult?,
which you can read
. I would probably have at least taken a look at this particular piece even if blogging colleague Liz Burns
wasn't one of the authors. (Along with Sophie Brookover and Kelly Jensen
.) A concise description of NA from their article: "New Adult — aimed at an adult audience but with strong appeal for teen readers — has recently garnered much buzz. Story lines tend to follow the contours of contemporary genre romance novels, but starring younger characters." They also say that NA has "more drama and explicit sexuality than even the most daring YA."
I heard muttering about some kind of new category of book for older than YA readers for years before New Adult turned up on the scene. I was expecting it to be rooted in college-age and twenty-something experience of starting jobs and being out in the world, though, and not limited to romance and sexuality, which is all I'm hearing now. I was thinking things like Lonely Werewolf Girl
. Yeah, I got that wrong.Owl Moon Redux
by Jane Yolen
. I am not a poetry person, but I found this article on different ways Yolen could have gone with the text of her book Owl Moon
fascinating.What Makes a Good Horse Book?
by Anita L. Burkam, which is also on-line
. Guess what? I was a horsey girl. Billy and Blaze
. The Black Stallion
. Gaudenzia, Pride of the Palio,
which I remembered as Queen of the Palio. Another article I just had to dip into. And what did I find? Maxine Kumin
wrote a horse book
A lot of Horn Book
reviews deal with apocalyptic, paranormal, and fantasy titles or some variation of same. As a general rule, there are also a lot of dead parent or dead somebody stories. This probably reflects what's being published rather than any kind of direction from the magazine. There's a limit to how much the-future-is-a-dreadful place and dead Dad reading I can do.
Some other types of titles that caught my eye:Year of the Jungle
, Suzanne Collins' picture book about her father's tour in Vietnam.Jane, the Fox & Me
by Fanny Britt. A graphic novel with a character who is into Jane Eyre
.The Day My Father Became a Bush
by Joke van Leeuwen. This book actually sounds a little over my head, but I was grabbed by this line--"...then she meets a captain who's AWOL because he's unable to use the imperative mood." He couldn't give orders?
The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius
by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Eccentric art
No Monkeys, No Chocolate
by NESCBWI colleague Melissa Stewart
A Baking Metaphor
Yesterday I made the cookies you see to your left. No, they were not supposed to come out like that. I got distracted when I realized I was out of dark chocolate and would have to use regular and ended up using three times as much as I needed. I couldn't scoop any out, so I doubled everything else, hoping to make things work in some magical way. As you can see, the first batch of cookies were shapeless blobs. Not magical. Not any good magic, anyways.
But I had a lot of cookie dough, and I didn't want to waste it. So I tried dumping it all in a cake pan thinking that if worse came to worse, I could break it out of there, freeze the crumbled result, and we could eat it with ice cream until Halloween. And after I took it out of the oven, I thought that was what I'd have to do.
But when I got up this morning, I discovered that someone else (well, it was my husband) had been able to cut tidy bars out of the pan for breakfast. Sure enough, I was able to take a disappointing mess and turn it into bar cookies.
So What's The Metaphor?
Well, writing projects often don't turn out the way we originally envisioned them. And that can happen after putting a lot of time and effort into them. Did a novel requiring a lot of research not work out or find a publishing home? That material might be turned into a piece of nonfiction. Published essays frequently turn into books of nonfiction a few years down the line. Writers may realize that a novel should have been a short story. I have a middle grade manuscript I couldn't place, and I've made one pass at turning it into a book for adults. I'm working on an essay right now that was originally a workshop proposal.
It's as hard to see words and time go to waste as it is to see butter, flour, and cocoa. Writers who are trying to support themselves with their work can't afford to just forget about projects that aren't panning out. They have to salvage them somehow, if they can.
So while you're writing, keep thinking about options. You might need them.
First off, why get involved with Google+?
Nobody's over there, right? Well, your friends from high school probably aren't. Or your neighbors or members of your church. If you're interested in professional-type content rather than pictures of cats, Google+ might be the place to find it. It's definitely an easy place to organize it. Google+ allows you to organize your contacts into "circles," categorized the way you want to categorize them. I, for instance, have self-publishing circles, marketing/promotional circles, and blogger circles. I can easily bring up each circle so that content is all I see on the page in front of me. I can take in a lot of information, easily.
How about getting my information out on Google+? Last week
, I said I was going to check out Julia DeNeen
's tutorial on crafting content for Google+
. What you want to do on Google+, as with any other social platform, is get a message out to as many people as possible so you can develop some name recognition. DeNeen's tutorial can definitely help you do it.
This past week I've been doing only a few of the things DeNeen suggests, and I've definitely seen an improvement in my plus 1's (people sharing my posts) and an uptick in people adding me to their own circles. People, particularly people I don't know, sharing my content gets my name out in front of more people I don't know. People I don't know adding me to their circles so that my posts will be coming up on their walls regularly means that they'll see my name over and over. Name recognition.
What have I been doing?
- I've been reposting all my blog posts at Google+ for a while. After watching DeNeen's tutorial, I've been much more serious about introducing them with a summary. That way, readers don't have to click through to my post to find out what it's about. This makes a great deal of sense in terms of the little I know about communication theory. The receiver of a message shouldn't have to work too hard. Without a good summary to give receivers an idea of what's on the other side of that link, they're forced to do the work of discovering it themselves. A lot of readers won't. (Myself included.)
- I link to Google+ users whose work I'm discussing in my post in the summary. I had no idea how to do that. Never even occurred to me to try.
- I now know how to use bold text.
I'll have to watch the tutorial again to figure out how to use images. But given the results I've had with what I have been doing, I think it would be worth it.
Next week I hope to cover everything I've been doing wrong at Twitter
I just stumbled upon this great bit of information: Santiago Cohen, who did the cover and illustrations for my very first book, My Life Among the Aliens, as well as its sequel, Club Earth, has a picture book coming out this November, The Yiddish Fish. Terrific news.
Bless S.C.'s heart, he still maintains my book covers at his website.
April 1, Jacqueline Davies, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00
Thurs., April 3, Janet Lawler, Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford Literacy Coalition Book Fair, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 3:30 to 5:00
Thurs., April 3, Annabel Monaghan, Westport Public Library, Westport 7:30-9:00
Sat., April 5, Janet Lawler, Granby Public Library, Granby 10:30
Sat., April 5, Katie L. Carroll, Bank Square Books, Mystic 2:00 to 4:00
Thurs. , April 10, Joan Verniero, Westport Public Library, Westport 10:00 to 11:00 (This sounds like a program for adults by a children's author)
Thurs., April 10, Jody Casella, Jennifer Castle, Kim Purcell, Phoebe North, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:00 PM
Sat., April 12, Gordon McClellan, Bank Square Books, Mystic 11:00 to 1:00
Sun., April 27, John Rocco, Bank Square Books, Mystic 2:00
The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science by Kevan Lee at Buffer suggests that when considering managing time we might want to keep in mind when we do things. Some times are better than others for particular activities.
Creative vs. Analytical Work
We've discussed here that willpower can be depleted. Our biggest store of self-discipline is early in the day. We try to duplicate that morning boost of willpower experience by breaking our day into units, so that we keep starting over again. The Unit System
! Lee suggests that that early period of the day is best for creative work
because that's when the prefrontal cortex of the brain is most active. A "study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain—a key element to the creative process." He says this study also indicated that "analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on."
Conclusion? Writers who have a number of projects underway may want to work on the ones that involve generating new material earlier in the day and the ones that require revision-like activities later.
Don't Care For Mornings? Try A Routine During Another Part Of The Day.
What about those of us who don't see ourselves as morning people? Set your time and stick with it. "Routine," Lee says, "reinforces neural circuitry, and the more you work at the same routine, the stronger those connections become." So you can compensate for not using what scientists consider the best creative time by maintaining a routine.
As For Me
I like to do a sprint
in the morning before I actually get started working. Stopping after a short, intense burst of work gives my mind something to dwell on while I'm doing the less challenging activities involved with getting ready for the day. After reading The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science
, I'm going to be sure that that sprint involves new writing and not editing, research, or formatting manuscripts. I can do that much later in the day.
Saving the Planet & Stuff
is featured today at CT GreenScene
. As you might suspect from the blog's name, the questions I was asked there relate to environmentalism. Or Connecticut.
Be sure to check out Question 3. Seriously, I obsess over that stuff.
Last week I wrote about trying to find ways to manage time and work while recovering from health problems. That's definitely an example of situational time management. With any luck, for most of us health problems are a temporary situation that we have to work through like so many other changing situations in our work lives.
This past week at Writer Unboxed, Lydia Sharp described another situation to work through, one that occurs with more frequency, writing with seasonal affective disorder. There are times of the year--situations--when she is able to work better than at others. For her, the year is broken into quarters. She has a quarter when she is most likely to be able to generate new work and a quarter when it's best to revise.
If you read Sharp's post and the comments that follow it, you'll see that she and some others manage their writing time by recognizing that their situation will change over the course of the year and planning what they'll do during the different seasonal situations. One writer even determines whether she'll work on fiction or nonfiction by time of year.
Notice, also, the impact of the "write-every-day" and "Butt in Chair" philosophies on people who are trying to manage writing time while dealing with this type of situation. Not only are they not helpful, they often lead writers who just can't work that way to feel guilty.
Connecticut author/illustrator Wendell Minor was featured at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast earlier this week. And an exhibit of his work continues at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts until May 26.
My favorite quote from the Seven Imps' interview: "The most important thing that teaching has taught me is that it’s one thing to know your craft, but a very different thing to be able to enlighten and instruct others as to how to learn their own craft."
I heard Wendell Minor speak many years ago when he appeared at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair with Jean Craighead George.
Author Neal Shusterman will be making an appearance at the Barnes and Noble Bookstore in West Hartford next Tuesday, March 25. 7:00 PM
I've suspected that many writers make a number of mistakes related to blogging. Julie Deneen at Fabulous Blogging discusses just one in Most Bloggers Think About Social Media the Wrong Way.
What she's talking about here is using blog posts "everywhere, multiple times, until people are so annoyed they start unfollowing you." A lot of people have a lot of the same friends on Facebook and Goodreads and some of those same people are following them on Twitter, too. So using the same blog post everywhere can lead to a lot of repetition. Writers, in particular, have to be careful about this sort of thing when we're doing one of those "my book got a wonderful new review" posts. People receiving these messages multiple times can feel they're getting a hard sell. You don't want to come across like a telemarketer trying to get homeowners to switch electric plans.
Deneen describes ways to treat the same material in different ways for use in different places. Her plan reminded me of advice I used to read for freelance writers. It sounds like work, but I suspect that it's the kind of thing that you get used to doing and then it goes fast.
Please excuse me now. I have to go look at that Google plus tutorial Deneen linked to.
Last week I wrote about hybrid authors, authors who publish both traditionally and as self-publishers. Among other things, self-publishing means being responsible for your own covers, something I found difficult with Saving the Planet & Stuff. I knew what kind of feel I wanted in the illustration, but I had trouble hunting around on-line for illustrators who projected what I was looking for. I also realized that there was a difference between an illustration and a book design. I found book design mystifying. Fortunately, I found someone within our family's circle who was able to take care of both the illustration and the design. (Someone who appears to have taken down his website.)
In the March/April issue of the SCBWI Bulletin, author Chris Eboch has an article Cover Design in which she discusses for self-published authors the very issues I was dealing with. She describes pulling together a couple of other authors to help study recent fantasy covers in order to pinpoint the elements she wanted for her book, The Genie's Gift. In her case, she found both an illustrator, Marlo Garnsworthy, and a designer, Alan Erickson. And Chris explains how design differs from illustration. Design involves "choosing and placing text elements," which includes fonts. Fonts are important in terms of their appearance and their placement. And as I learned, some of them are copyrighted. You can't use just any font.
Chris points out that self-publishing can be expensive, something I think many inexperienced writers don't realize or consider. Editing and covers are the two big expenses. They're the two elements of a book that show big time, if they're not well done. Chris says to expect to spend several hundred dollars if you need to hire an artist for an illustration. I've seen the price range of $600 to $2500 in a couple of different places. And then, remember, that that might not include design.
So, writers, once you get the book written, you have a whole new task ahead of you.
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I am a big fan of Maureen Johnson
's Suite Scarlet
, which I described as being a "combination of mainstream fiction and screwball comedy." I sought out her book, The Name of the Star
, for that reason and because it was a contemporary thriller. I can take or leave that genre, in general, but I'm interested in it when combined with YA.
I have to say that I found The Name of the Star
slow getting started. I'm not giving anything away by saying the story deals with a Jack the Ripper copycat murderer. He's carefully mentioned in each of the early chapters, but those chapters are used primarily to get main character, Rory, established in her English boarding school. I liked the premise behind the Scooby Gang that is hunting the killer, but this particular case seemed a little weak to me.
That being said, The Name of the Star
is the first in a series, The Shades of London
. I'm going to pick up a copy of The Madness Underneath
, Book 2. As I said, I liked the Scooby Gang, and I think it's possible that after The Name of the Star
set up the universe, succeeding books could end up being stronger.
Another interesting point: That slow start I mentioned above definitely makes The Name of the Star
YA. It's all about secondary school, getting along with other students, getting away from Mom and Dad, and does that boy like me? It doesn't read like an adult book whose adult protagonist has been replaced with a teenager