Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Back To Work

House guests are fine and dandy, particularly when they do dishes all weekend and strip their bed and gather all their linens before they leave. But it's rough to go long periods of time being pleasant and keeping the house clean rather than checking e-mail, reading, and exercising, which, quite honestly, is how I spend the bulk of my time when I'm on my own.

I came away from my family weekend with a lovely anniversary collectors' edition of Anne of Green Gables, direct from Canuckistan, as well as a couple of new writing magazines that I bought for myself when we were all in a bookstore. Two more publications I'll never have time to read. Because e-mailing, reading, and exercising are so time consuming.

Since I've often written here about Sherlock Holmes, I thought I'd mention that this weekend we visited Gillette Castle, a seriously marvelous place. The castle was built by William Gillette, who originated the character of Sherlock Holmes on stage and is responsible for many of the characteristics the public associates with that character.

While we were there, who shows up but ol' Bill himself in character as S. Holmes. So what we're talking about here is an actor playing an actor playing a character. It was a neat touch.

Thanks to YouTube, you can catch a bit of an audio clip of Gillette as Holmes.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pick Up A Book And Start Reading Again, Gail

Down on yourself about work? Feeling inept? Incompetent? Maybe a little humiliated?

I've got two words for you--endorphin rush.

I've been moping around for a couple of days, boring my family to death, because it appears that I misread a book that I then blogged about. At length. You can read about this situation in the comments section of this post. Spoiler alert! That's why I'm not writing about it here (the risk of spoilage). Besides, I'm actually writing about something else here.

Anyway, I was feeling very distressed about this because I am supposed to be able to comprehend a mystery novel, for crying out loud. (Unless it's something like this. I will admit, I have only the vaguest idea what was going on with that one.) I was feeling inadequate. Stupid.

Yeah, that's right. I don't have anything bigger to worry about.

So, today was taekwondo day, and I'm at my class this morning. The instructor asked me to work with another student on joong bong defense. I've been working on joong bong defense for, maybe, five years. It takes a while, but I find it doable because it's orderly and involves memorizing an attack and a defense. Ten of them, so far. It's not like sparring, which I am terrible at, because you have to respond to random attacks--you have to process what your opponent is doing and come up with a response, within seconds, and then keep moving.

However, when you are trying to teach a skill to someone, especially someone who is having trouble with it (and these things aren't easy), randomness comes into play again. The student makes mistakes. The student gets confused. I get confused. I make mistakes.

We didn't get very far, and I had to let the instructor know that I was...ah, how was I putting it earlier? Oh, yes. Inept, incompetent, and inadequate. He's a lovely young man and said he'd take over. I should go put my gear on because we were sparring this week.

In case you don't recall, I mentioned earlier that I am terrible at sparring. So I'm walking across the dojang to my gear bag thinking, I can't read. I can't do joong bong defense. Now I've got to spar. I'm going to be crawling home on my stomach.

Au contraire!

Sparring went fantastically! I had a great training partner who doesn't usually train in the morning class, though I'd seen her around before. We were perfectly matched! Which is awful to say because she was six ranks below me. In my defense, though, she was taller than I am. But it was as if we were both at a level where we could each challenge the other without overwhelming her.

I came out of there with a buzz on like I haven't had after class in years.

And on the way home I said, You're going to the library, Gail! And you're getting books. You're getting hard books. And you know what else? You read that father/child storyline into that book, right? Okay, do something with it! This spring, after you finish your big project and are working on small ones, you're going to write that weird father story you've been thinking about for eight years! And then you're going to write that message-from-my-forefathers essay. And it's going to be brilliant! And you're going to submit it somewhere!

Yeah! Yeah!

I'm telling you, just remembering it is bringing the rush back.

Think of this post as your Shaker and curling post. Without the Shakers or the curling.

Today's Training Report: I revised about four pages of the last chapter of the never-ending story. I'm within paragraphs of being done. This denouement is very different from the last one. I'm focusing very much on theme. I never used to think about theme much at all when I was writing. This is new for me.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

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.


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 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.


Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Hard To Be Anything But Humble: Part II In What Will Undoubtedly Become A Series

I was visiting an older relative this past weekend. We were talking about the book I expect to be writing the rest of my life. I think she was feeling sorry for me and was trying to think of some way to offer encouragement, because she said to me, "Gail, have you ever thought about writing comedy?"

I sat there for a moment, and then I said, "I think that's what I'm known as--a humorist."

She said, "Oh. Really? I thought you'd be good at that."

More on the subject of humor: Laughter in the Dark in The New York Times Sunday Book Review.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Just Received My Second Google Alert

It was for yesterday's Original Content post regarding receiving only one Google Alert for someone else's obituary.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's Hard To Be Anything But Humble

A few of my blogger buddies were talking about Google Alerts at one of my listservs. Google Alerts will give you an e-mail update of whatever topic you ask it to. So you can have it notify you if your book or blog is mentioned somewhere or if you, yourself, get a mention. You can keep track of anything you want. The woman down the street you don't like. Your kids. You name it. It's so convenient!

Well, I decided I'd have Google alert me whenever my own name was mentioned. I figured that would be enough to let me know if any of my books were being talked about.

That was maybe five days ago. I've received one alert because someone named Gauthier died in New Jersey, and his obit ended up on-line.

Actually, I think we have a distant relative in New Jersey--a descendant of one of my great-uncles. Gee, I hope that guy wasn't a family member.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Sixth Anniversary For O.C.

I'm having quite a stimulating week here at Chez Gauthier. I've done school presentations, I've started getting ready for next month's on-line chat with a library in Maine, and I've been fielding inquiries for more author visits. And then today I celebrate (well, let's say I notice) the sixth anniversary of Original Content.

This blog is one of the few techie things that I grasped before my computer guy did. When I asked him to take a look at Blogger to see how I'd go about starting a blog, he didn't know why I wanted to bother when he had already made me a website. Blogs weren't anywhere near as common as they are now. In fact, before I started mine, I googled "children's literature" and "weblog" and found somewhere between four and six sites. TodayJacketFlap's main page says it includes more than 650 children's book-related blogs. I guess a lot can happen in six years. Still, I find that number staggering.

This blog has changed over time. I didn't post every day for several years, but had a goal of generating new material two or three times a week. (I didn't always meet it.) I didn't have a method for readers to comment for many years. I didn't have my covers up here for a long time. I didn't know what a blog roll was until I started noticing them on other kidlit blogs.

I cannot recall at what point I started noticing that there were other kidlit blogs. Maybe in 2005? Though I have found a link to Kids Lit from back in 2004. Also, I was obsessed with Jane Yolen's On-line Journal (like a blog but different) from the end of July, 2004 until the beginning of April, 2007.

In spite of the changes, I remain amazingly consistent. Or, perhaps, I am not capable of evolving and changing. My purpose for blogging remains the same as it was the day of my first post--to bring original content to my website on a frequent basis. I am still intrigued by the line between YA and A literature, just as I was in my third post. And I was writing about Beowulf back in March, 2002 just as I was last fall.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Not Kidlit But All About Me, Me, Me

Literary Mama has selected my essay, Mom Memory, as one of its Favorite 2007 Literary Mama writing in the creative nonfiction category. I know I don't usually pay a lot of attention to "Best of the Year" lists, but under the circumstances...

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Me, Me, Me, Me

Speaking of things to look forward to, I received my copy of the Penguin Young Readers Group May through August, 2008 catalog yesterday. For those of you who will be receiving it, I'm on page 40 with A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers.

Sometime before spring, we're hoping to do a Hannah and Brandon mini-page at my website for this series.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Promo Time

This past weekend I was so involved with my thoughts regarding Gregor and Ripred that I forgot all about putting in a good word for A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat. I have some new reviews to share.

The July/August issue of The Horn Book gave Monster Cat a very satisfying review. "Take one boy stuck at a neighbor's house, mix in one girl with an overactive imagination, add one vicious Chihuahua, and you have a perfect recipe for havoc...Cepeda's familiar black-and-white sketches add just the right energy to an already lively chapter book." The Horn Book also lists Monster Cat on its web page collection of pet stories. (It also has a page called Web Watch that includes my classroom materials under "Reading Guides.")

School Library Journal posted its review of the book at its website. "The outrageous situations, quirky characters, and black-and-white cartoon illustrations are certain to appeal to children who are looking for an easy chapter book that is pure fun." That was satisfying, too.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tragically Slow

On Friday A Fuse #8 Production included a post about three books that were about to be published in paperback with different covers and titles than they had when they were originally published in hardcover. I, of course, offered my two cents, which was, essentially, "Blah, blah, blah, blah-blah."

Well, I was telling one of my family members about this whole thing at dinner (Yes, Fuse, we talk about you at the dinner table) two days later, when I realized I'd had something similar happen with my second book, A Year with Butch and Spike. The title remained the same, but the cover changed. I have no idea why this happened. I believe I asked once, but if I got an answer I've forgotten it. I'm not very good about details.

Bringing up A Year with Butch and Spike in this context would be shameless, shameless self-promotion on my part except...the book is out of print! In hardcover, in soft cover, in any cover at all! You can't buy the thing anywhere!

But the covers were nice, weren't they?

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