Friday, January 30, 2009

Kids Heart Authors Day

I've been doing some promotional work for Kids Heart Authors Day here.

Kids Heart has a real promotional person, and don't think it wasn't terrific to just send her a list of publications in my state and let her deal with them. I could get used to that.

This week Computer Guy made a lovely flyer that described both Kids Heart Authors Day and my particular store appearance. I've been sending it to area schools as well as to some librarian connections. This was actually more fun then I've found doing this kind of thing to be in the past, probably because I actually know some of the people I've been contacting. Plus, because I was doing this by e-mail, two people responded positively within minutes.

It sort of made me feel as if I were gambling and had just won a couple of hands. Let's play some more! Who else can I send this thing to?

I'm going to be one of five authors and illustrators appearing at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut on Valentine's Day. One of the librarians who got back to me today said that this particular bookstore is a "huge supporter of libraries."

A very nice reputation to have.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Maybe He Doesn't Watch Much Television

At the very end of The New York Times article discussed in my last post, historian Douglas Brinkley suggests that book reviews should be subsidized like public television. "I think that just like public television I think book review sections almost need to get subsidized to keep the intellectual life in America alive."

Good heavens, man! Do you not watch public television? Do we really want the book review equivalent of hours of Peter, Paul, and Mary retrospectives, documentaries on the British royal family, and self-help programming for baby boomers?


How Much Longer Can The New York Times Book Review Last?

The Washington Post is giving up its stand-alone book review section. This means The New York Times Book Review is the last biggy left.

Motoko Rich, the author of the article on the Post (which ran in The New York Times) said that its book review section wasn't bringing in enough advertising to justify keeping it around. Publishers, Rich says, "generally spend very little on newspaper ads. Publishers now focus their marketing dollars on cooperative agreements with chain bookstores, which guarantee that certain books will receive prominent display at the front of stores."

The problem with putting all your money into store displays is that you're marketing only to people who are already in the stores, which I'm assuming is a smaller, self-selecting group, rather than to a more general population. I also don't know that I'd call having to pay to get your books displayed "marketing."

Some of the newspapers that have given up separate book review sections are still carrying book reviews, they're just carrying them in other parts of the paper. About that situation David L. Ulin, book editor of The Los Angeles Times, is quoted as saying, "In a section where there are a variety of elements, there might be people who might not ordinarily look at book reviews who might now look at book reviews...You could argue that putting books into the general mix opens more people to that conversation."

I think he may have a point there. I, personally, don't know many people out here in the carbon-based world who would actually sit down and thumb through a book review section. But if a review just happened to be next to an article on what happened to Caroline Kennedy's Senate bid, they just might notice it.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The David Sedaris Lesson Plan

Earlier this month, I was doing an on-line connection thing with some creative writing students in a high school in Vermont. One of the students asked me about my favorite writers. The only name I can recall giving her was David Sedaris's, in large part because the young woman responded that she liked him, too. I recommended reading his essays to another student, who also said she was already familiar with him.

Then I started reading his most recent book When You Are Engulfed In Flames while I was on vacation, and I began to wonder if I wanted to be the one to tip the young off to the many wonders of Sedaris. The guy writes about getting high. Regularly. For decades. He writes about getting drunk. Nightly. For decades. He writes about hitchhiking! And, then, of course, what would a David Sedaris anthology be without frequent mentions of demon nicotine?

I eat all this stuff up, myself, but I had some anxious moments while I was reading this latest book. Could I get into trouble for recommending him to the impressionable young?

Then I realized that Sedaris has given up weed, alcohol, and Kools, and he has never cheated on a boyfriend. The guy's a flipping role model!

That being the case, I came up with some David Sedaris writing assignments:

1. David Sedaris writes about his experiences taking foreign language classes in France and Japan. Write an essay about your experience taking foreign language classes in your school. Seriously, do you think your instructor has a clue what s/he's saying to you? Does s/he really know anything about the language s/he's teaching or is s/he just onto a really sweet thing standing in front of a bunch of kids and spouting gibberish?

2. In one of his essays Sedaris writes about a somewhat odd woman who lived next door to him. Write an essay about an odd person who lives next door to you. The neighbor may be male or female. You'll get extra credit for including details about the neighbor's unpleasant health problems.

3. Sedaris wrote an essay about giving his companion a skeleton for Christmas. Write an essay about a really good present you've given someone.

4. Sedaris describes catching flies to feed his spider, April, in one of his pieces. Write an essay about your pet. Does it have any unusual dietary needs?

5. In one essay David Sedaris tells us that while visiting a doctor's office in Paris, he didn't understand a French nurse's instructions about what to do after he disrobed. So, naturally, he ended up sitting in the waiting room in his underwear. Write an essay about something embarrassing that you've done. Not something embarrassing that happened to you. Something embarrassing you've done.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Mean It--Everyone Writes Children's Books

John Updike, who died today, wrote A Child's Calendar, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 2000 for Trina Shart Hyman's illustrations.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I See Children's Books--Everywhere

Last Thursday night I went to hear an acquaintance, Susan Campbell, speak about her new book Dating Jesus: A Story About Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Susan's book, which I have not yet read, is an adult memoir. But as she was telling these very funny stories about her mother being called in to take her out of Sunday school class and going door-to-door as a twelve-year-old to ask people if they'd like to read the Bible with her, I thought, Hey, this could be a kids' book! A YA, anyway. She should reuse her material as kidlit! It could be hysterical!

Hysteria is very important in a book.

Another interesting observation about Susan's appearance: The crowd, and it was a nice sized one, was interested in content. They wanted to talk about religion, the subject of the book. I, however, wanted to talk about what you might call structure or format. I was looking for an opportunity (which never came) to ask if the author had considered using her material in fiction instead of nonfiction. At the very end of the hour, one person asked the ever popular "How long did it take you to write this book?" Otherwise, not a soul wanted to talk about anything but content.

One of the reasons I found this so interesting is that in reading print and blog reviews of books I've read it has appeared to me that I read differently from other people. A lot of readers are totally interested in content. What the story is about is of primary importance to them. I am at least as interested in how the story is told. And if writers really drop the ball with that, they've lost me.

I like to think that my concern with how a story is put together instead of the story, itself, is due to the fact that I'm a writer and putting a story together is my business. But I also wonder sometimes if it just means I'm superficial, sort of like someone who is only interested in clothes, rather than the person who is wearing them.

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Wow. An Entertaining Book Just Won The Newbery Medal.

I happened to check my e-mail around ten o'clock and found that someone at one of my listservs had posted a link to the ALA awards webcast. So I ended up watching close to forty minutes of awards announcements, which was more interesting than I expected it to be.

And I'd actually read--and liked--the winner of this year's Newbery Medal.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vacation Reading: Book Three, Another Kind Of Fantasy

While I've done my fair share of reading of Jane Austen, favoring Pride and Prejudice like so many other readers, I can't say I get the love for Mr. Darcy that I'm always hearing about. Sure, I enjoy the I hate you, I hate you, I love you relationship between the P&P male and female leads, a formula that Austen may have created. But, seriously, Darcy doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun to live with to me, I don't care how many wet shirt scenes actors do while playing him. (Did anyone else think Pandering to the audience while watching that? Did anyone else think about how exploitative that scene--which does not appear in the book--would have been if it had involved a woman instead of a man? Nah, I guess not.)

I'm not all that interested in the romances Jane Austen wrote about. They're sort of beside the point to me. I'm interested in her. I like the sharpness of her observations, and the world she creates in her books. I like the way she makes me feel that there have always been women who stepped to another drummer.

All this build-up is to explain why I felt some reservations about sitting down to read Austenland by Shannon Hale, as my third vacation book. I've liked some of Hale's work, but other things I found "girly". Fairy-tale-like fantasies seem to be her turf, and though she often gave them a bit of a feminist, "girl-power" spin, they still seemed very "girly" for my taste.

But my attitude toward her work changed after reading Austenland, her adult novel about thirty-something Jane, a Pride and Prejudice junky who can't find happiness in love because of her obsession with Mr. Darcy. Now I see Hale as someone who is, indeed, attracted to what might be called fairy tale fantasies but who also looks at them and goes, "Oh, come on!"

For instance, Jane in Austenland inherits a week at what might be described as a very high class Jane Austen theme park--Austenland. Well-heeled women with Austen fantasies dress up in early nineteenth century fashions and live with Austen re-enactors, a number of whom are handsome men who develop Austen-like romantic relationships with the often middle aged clientele.

But unless this feminist of a certain age was reading too much into this tale, Hale doesn't just lay out a light-hearted romantic comedy here. She also raises the question of whether or not fictional romances have left many women readers disappointed in real men. (I know--there's a joke in here somewhere about real men actually being disappointing.) Her main character certainly comes to recognize the flaws in a real-life Mr. Darcy. Hale also points out how mind numbing life must have been for upper class women in Austen's world. All the early nineteenth century stock romantic novel characters end up disappointing. In fact, the guy who is playing Mr. Darcy only becomes interesting when he's not playing him, anymore.

I found the weakest part of this book to be the main character, Jane. She seemed wishy washy, always changing her mind about what she hoped to get from her Austenland experience, and never being very clear about any of her thinking. But she didn't matter to me, anyway. What I liked about Austenland was the sharpness of the observations and the world within the world. It was an interesting book from someone I now consider to be an interesting writer.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vacation Reading: Book Two, Everyone Writes Children's Books

The second book I managed to knock off during vacation was 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, an odd little volume of letters written by a New York City author and a London bookseller who continued to communicate over a twenty-year-period though they never met in the flesh. (Think an Internet relationship with a really long time-lag between connections.)

The book is a quick read and interesting to people like myself who are into books and mid-twentieth century history. Otherwise, I don't really see the attraction.

What's the kid-lit connection? Why am I mentioning it here? Well, folks, Helene Hanff was a scriptwriter who also wrote children's books.

Seriously, I just can't get away from kidlit.

Happy Birthday, Ethan Allen

Today is Ethan Allen's two hundred and seventy-first birthday. We celebrated here at Chez Gauthier with a cake and a stonewall, a vile drink Ethan is supposed to have been fond of tossing back.

Stonewalls are made with warm cider and rum. I'm not fond of rum, myself, so I mulled the cider first, thinking that might mask the flavor. Not a particularly good idea. On top of that, I believe Ethan's stonewalls were made with hard cider, which isn't particularly easy to find around here these days.

In addition, we picked the winner of the copy of The Hero of Ticonderoga. So someone will actually be receiving a gift to celebrate Ethan's birthday.

I didn't make that cake, by the way. Not that I couldn't have. I am perfectly capable of making a cake, just so you know. I could have decorated it, too, if I had been feeling ambitious. However, this is a work day, and what with the holidays, vacation, snowstorms to deal with, and what have you, I haven't done much work this past month. I couldn't justify taking more time off to bake a cake for someone who would never see it because...he's been dead for over two hundred years.

I'm not actually crazy.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vacation Reading: Book One, An Adult Mystery With YA Appeal

I took a sabbatic from reading kids' books while I was on vacation. And, yet, three of the books I finished have a kid connection of one sort or another.

For instance, On the Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith has what I would call a thematic connection to YA. On the Wrong Track is the second in the Holmes on the Range series, Western mysteries set in the 1890s. Our narrator is twenty-year-old Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer, a cowboy who wanders with his twenty-seven-year-old brother Gustav "Old Red."

Seems pretty remote from twenty-first century YA readers, doesn't it? Well, the thing is, Gustav wants to be more than an illiterate cowpoke of few words. He wants to be a deducifier like his hero, Sherlock Holmes. And his little (though physically quite enormous) brother, Otto, wants to write up their adventures and publish them like Dr. Watson did Holmes'.

Though these two red-headed brothers are twenty-somethings, they seem younger (to the extent that people who are handy with guns and foul language can seem young) because they're trying to determine who and what they're going to be. In this book, they run into a burned out, dime novel hero who is not what he once was and maybe never was. They have to deal, each in his own way, with a young, very intertriguing, woman. They are confronted with disappointment and all kinds of road blocks in pursuing their goals.

I'm not saying that On the Wrong Track is a YA book, but it deals with issues that are common in YA novels and that should have appeal for YA readers.

I also think that On the Wrong Track is a good historical novel. Many historical novels for younger readers are what I'd describe as unbalanced. A lot of attention has been given to the historical setting but characters are often underdeveloped or cliched and plots are weak. My own guess is that children's and YA historical fiction is viewed as being educational. Such books are supposed to teach something about the period and are given a pass on other elements.

The Holmes on the Range books, however, provide a strong setting, terrific characters who are at home in that setting, and real plots. Okay, a lot of those terrific characters use realisitic, coarse language, so you might not want to be the adult who hands off one of these things to a delicate twelve year old. But mid-teens will have heard it all before, and a good historical mystery could open their minds to the opportunities historical novels offer.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

More On Writing What You Know--And My Vacation

Oz and Ends has a post up called The Dubious Wisdom of "Writing What You Know," in which he quotes four authors on the subject. And what a coincidence! One of them is me!

I'd like to add a little something to the discussion, since I'm the writer quoted who is most in favor of writing what you know--or, as I prefer to call it, writing who you are.

When you write about what you know, you're writing about what other people know because people are more alike then they are different. Shannon Hale said something similar: "people are people." Fiction should take the personal and relate it to human experience in general, just as personal essays do. It's just with fiction, you get to run with whatever personal experience you choose to use whereas with personal essays you're supposed to put up a show about sticking with the truth.

A personal essay-like story to illustrate my point:

Last weekend I was visiting family members in Vermont, including my cousin and his two children, who are in first and third grades. The kids had been reading some of my books. The third-grade girl told me that she was going to keep the Hannah and Brandon book, but she was going to let her younger brother have My Life Among the Aliens because--

At that point, said younger brother broke in, "Because it could have been about me!"

I was incredibly touched, because My Life Among the Aliens deals to a great extent with my experiences as mom to that child's second cousins, who are a great deal older than he is. And, yet, he identified with the Will and Rob of the book to such an extent that he felt that their stories could have been his.

What greater joy can a reader get from a story? What greater joy can a writer get from a reader?


How Long Do You Suppose Retreat Disconnect Lasts?

I am back from the Great Cold North. On Wednesday I was worrying that I wasn't feeling apart enough from my regular life and would have to be dragged home kicking and screaming because I hadn't achieved the right feel, in spite of the three yoga classes I took. But everything was just fine yesterday. And, everything is still just fine, even though as soon as I got the car unloaded I had to race off to the library to pick up six Cybils books and the new memoir from an author who will be speaking in our town Thursday night. Then there was a notice waiting for me about renewing my Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators dues, and a book had come in the mail that I now need to pay for, and I need to look into doing a little promotional work for my Kids Heart Authors Day appearance. Plus, I've fallen several days behind on the 365 Story Project.

But I don't feel that bizarre sensation you get when you have too much to do and your insides are racing so hard they're trying to escape your outsides. Though it wouldn't take much to make me anxious about how to make this unnatural calm last.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greetings From The Land Of Ethan Allen

I'm here today to remind you that you still have a week to wish Ethan Allen a happy birthday, thus earning yourself a chance to win a copy of The Hero of Ticonderoga.

As it turns out, I'm spending the week in the New Hampshire Grants. On Sunday, I wasn't far from Ethan Allen's final home. That same day I drove by the chapel named for his brother. (From what I know of that family, naming a chapel for any of them would have left their contemporaries scratching their heads in wonder.), as well as the hospital named, in part, for his daughter, Fanny. (Fanny, the daughter of at least an ardent agnostic if not a hardcore atheist, became a Roman Catholic nun, proving, once again, that God has one heck of a sense of humor.)

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Going Silent...Or Dark...Or Whatever...

But only for a week.

Tomorrow I leave for our annual retreat week, and this time I'll actually be gone for a whole week. We will have a laptop with us and Internet access, but I didn't enjoy it last year, the first time we'd been able to communicate with the outside world. It's not very retreaty if you're checking your e-mail, trying to keep up with or even catch up on your blog reading, and blogging, too. I'll probably blog on Wednesday to remind everyone that they need to get their birthday wishes in for Ethan Allen. Otherwise, I'm reading, working out, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and eating.

I'm not bringing any kids' books with me, either. I'm feeling a little shaky about that, but this is a retreat. I'm supposed to be retreating from my daily life. And I will be working on the 365 Story Project, which, by the way, I'm two days behind on because of all the chatting I've been doing with those brilliant creative writing students in Vermont and all the ice I've been dealing with here in central Connecticut this past week.

So I'm signing off for a while.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

You Will Believe You Are At Camp

Chiggers by Hope Larson made me feel that I didn't miss anything by not having gone to summer camp. On the other hand, I recognized a lot of what was going on in this charming graphic novel, because summer camp sounds a whole lot like college dorm life, minus the sex and drinking.

Chiggers is about young Abby's experience at summer camp. She was looking forward to more of the good times she'd had in previous years with her friend, Rose. But Rose, an older camper, is now a Cabin Assistant. So Abby is on her own, struggling with making new relationships with new people who often aren't in the same scheduled activities she's in and who sometimes talk about her in the bathroom and who she works things out with, after all, in time for everyone to promise to write when camp's over.

It could be argued that there's no real story here, with a traditonal plot and a climax. It's one of those Zenny books that you just have to enjoy moment to moment.

And I did.

As a graphic novel, Chiggers works very well. I will admit that there were a couple of characters I had trouble keeping separate for a while, but otherwise the graphics did what they were supposed to do--they showed setting and background and action. The opening pages, in particular, did a wonderful job of showing us a young girl getting ready for and going to camp. And, though I've never been to camp, I've left some kids off at one, and the pages where Abby is lying on her bunk by herself waiting for more people to show up expressed exactly what I think must have been going on for the young Gauthiers. For that matter, it's what goes on when you're the first one to arrive at the dorm in the fall. Except for the lying down part, it's what happens when you're the first one to arrive anywhere.

I do wonder how boy readers will react to Chiggers, if it's just a little too estrogen-ridden for them. That's not a complaint, though. I'm just curious.

Chiggers is a finalist for a Cybil in the elementary and middle grade graphic novel category.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Start Your Partying Now

The Big E's birthday is two weeks from today. Get your birthday wishes in now for your chance at winning a signed copy of The Hero of Ticonderoga, which deals with a sixth grade student who finds herself forced to do an oral report on Vermont's famous old dead guy.

Now, I'm interested in this nearly eight-year-old book because I'm the author, and I have a box of copies of the thing. But why should you care? Well, Hero was an ALA Notable back in 2002, right around the time I started blogging but before most of you knew me. And the ALA citation includes the word "ribald." How often do you suppose that happens?

In addition, the book has been used in schools in Vermont and New York. Just last month it was used as an enrichment-type reader for a fifth grade class in Connecticut during its Revolutionary War unit.

If you're thinking, "Ew. That sounds educational and improving," remember, the ALA used the word "ribald" when describing it. Don't you want to be the one to give your school something like that?

By the way, no portraits of Ethan Allen exist. Thus that incredibly unflattering depiction of him at the site I linked to was just pulled out of the air.

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Was It Something I Said? Did I Break It?

I spent a couple of hours last night answering questions from a high school creative writing class in Vermont. (I'm afraid I'm getting way too comfortable talking about myself. Happy to do it, even.) This morning when I tried to go back to the program/site/whatever you want to call it where we were doing all this, I was told the page couldn't be displayed. The situation has remained the same for about two hours.

Do you suppose I offended someone? Me? Did someone have second thoughts about inviting me to respond to these students when I told them about my terrible work habits and how long it takes me to write a book?

I hadn't even gotten to the questions that would have led me to talk about the dreadful state of publishing and how all those kids really ought to make sure they have another job.

UPDATE: Evidently Kate (see comments) was right. I was able to get where I needed to go by nine, and I've finished passing on all my knowledge to the impressionable young. I'm sure those poor kids are going to think that I just drone on and on. The thing is...I could have said more. I was actually reining myself in.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I'm Doing Something Official This Week

Tomorrow I start answering writing process questions for a high school creative writing class in Vermont by way of a magical bit of software that will allow me to see and respond to their questions in the privacy of their...ah...program, I guess you'd call it.

I love being able to do these bizarre appearances without going anywhere. Thank you, God, for the Internet. Some of your best work.

On a related note, Justine Larbalestier is doing a writing advice month this January.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ethan

Ethan Allen's birthday is January 21st. We'll be celebrating it at Chez Gauthier with, perhaps, a cake and definitely with spirits of some sort because I know that's what he would have wanted.

You can join in the festivities and get a chance at receiving a present for Ethan's birthday by e-mailing me with the words "Happy Birthday, Ethan" in the subject line.

Don't be late for the party.


Maybe My Favorite So Far

A month or so ago, someone at one of my listservs who hadn't read any of the Percy Jackson books asked if they were any good. A number of people responded. Not one of them had anything bad to say about the books or their author, Rick Riordan.

I won't say that that's unheard of at a listserv. But, in my experience, it's not what you'd call the norm.

I'm definitely a Percy Jackson fan. I'm definitely a Rick Riordan fan, too, because, for the most part, this guy is able to maintain his level of play. I think he also does a better than average job of creating unique, individual adventures for each book within the context of his overall serial story.

With his fourth P.J. book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, we have another quest. A quest ought to make for some narrative drive, and it does here. Once again, the author does some clever things with mythology.

I think one of the things Riordan is particularly good at is avoiding common pitfalls associated with particular story lines. For instance, he brings in some teen relationship angst in Labyrinth without putting up any neon signs announcing, "Hey, look at me! I am more than a fantasy/thriller writer! I can do romance, too!" He even dabbled in some environmentalism in this book without going all heavy cliched message.

The Battle of the Labyrinth and it's companion books are well-done adventures. The next, and final, book in the series, The Last Olympian, will be published in May. For those who can't wait, an "auxillary book," The Demigod Files, will be out in February.

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I Forgot The Easy Readers, Too

I forgot to direct your attention to the Easy Reader finalists for the Cybils. Easy readers, like graphic novels, are of particular interest for me. Not that the rest of the finalists aren't interesting.

I seem to be really struggling to get over Christmas this year. I suspect that if I went back and looked at my end of the year posts, I'd find that I have trouble getting over it every year. Though who has time for that? I have reason to hope to be back to my so-called normal rituals by Tuesday. Then, of course, I leave for a week's vacation next Saturday.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Yikes! I Forgot About The Book Giveaway!

It's been a while since I've given away any books here, so I thought I'd give a copy of The Hero of Ticonderoga away this month because Ethan Allen's birthday is in January. Not that Hero is technically about Ethan Allen. But he does figure in the story. And I just like him, so we're going to celebrate his birthday here.

More details to follow.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Okay, A Brand New Year

I've noticed other bloggers creating Best of the Year or 2008 Favorite Lists. I'm never very interested in doing that kind of thing, in part because I'm not terribly into hierarchies. Yeah, I definitely like some books better than others. But I respect a lot of work even when I don't necessarily enjoy reading every word of it. I like a literary discussion, but I wonder if rating books isn't, well, over rated. Many books are--and should be--so different that they can't be compared or held up one above the other.

Plus, I'm not much for looking back. I nearly went out of my mind yesterday just looking at our digital photos for the last two years so that we could have prints made. You can be sure I'll be making a desperate effort not to miss any years so I don't have to go through that long, drawn out ordeal again.

While I don't care for looking back, though, I love to look forward. I've loved January for years. In fact, I'm beginning to feel that the best thing about Christmas is that it means that January is almost here.

I can really get behind any kind of new beginnings. Just buying new furniture can mean a whole new regime at Chez Gauthier. So you can imagine how excited I get about a new year.

My plans for 2009 so far:

The biggy is working on what I've been calling The 365 Story Project for a couple of years now. I tried to get started on that in 2008. When I went through my journal yesterday to prep for this year, I found that I actually did come up with some material throughout the year for 365 bits, shall we say, about some kids living on a street. My inspiration is 365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert. I have no idea how this is going to turn out because these one- or two-page stories...scenes...vignettes...for each day of the year are going to be for middle grade students. I am really experimenting here. My hope is that by writing a little bit each day about each day in the life of one or another of these kids, by the end of next year I'll have the equivalent of some kind of book. I just don't know what kind right now.

I'm off to a good start, having written something for January 1st and coming up with names for some characters and even a bit of characterization. I was doing so well that I figured, what the hell, I'll do January 2nd, too. I knew what I wanted to do and who knows? I could have forgotten by tomorrow.

I'm also going to continue working on process. Or maybe a better word would be ritual. In November and December I started trying to treat writing as a practice, the way I think of working out as a practice and the yoga I've added to my routines as a practice. This was extremely helpful in keeping me on task. I got so into my practice rituals that when I had to give them up because I had to make an all out effort for Christmas, I felt as if I was going to fall apart.

Now, I know some people, many of them my relatives, would consider that a bad thing. I, however, believe it means I was on to something. I functioned better with the practice than without it. I want my practice. I'm gong back to the practice!

The third thing I'm going to be working on in my new year is giving up reading a lot of the crap magazines that come into this house. A lot of us in our family extend the lives of magazines in order to keep them out of landfills or the mystery that is the recycling bin. (We individuals do not recycle, by the way. We sort. It is an act of faith because we don't actually know what becomes of our various sorted piles after we take them to "transfer" stations. My computer guy believes everything is "transferred" to the same incinerator. And, yet, he sorts. He goes through the motions even when he does not believe. It's sort of spiritual, isn't it?) Anyway, one of my relatives went crazy subscribing to magazines last year, and we've had a slew of junk coming into our house these past six months. I've been reading it all while on the treadmill and exercise bicycle.

That's time I should have been committing to other kinds of reading. I read fewer books this year than I have in the past, not quite breaking 100 volumes. However, I know far more about Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway, and Heath Ledger than I need to. Oh, and Tom Cruise. And Nicole Kidman, for that matter...Todd Palin...Michelle Obama...Michael Phelps' mother...

So that's all over, folks. From now on I only read quality stuff like Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.

I'm also going to finish writing Becoming Greg and Emma--again--and work on some essays and mail out some short stories and read graphic novels for the Cybils and...GASP

I've worn myself out with planning and excitment. I've got to go rest.


Cybils Finalists

The Cybils finalists have have been announced. Here's my particular interest, the graphic novels category.