Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grammar Monkeys And The Subjunctive Mood

Grammar Monkeys is a blog that's brand-spanking new to me, and it's exactly what I was talking about when I posted about changing the blogs you follow in order to bring some spark into your own.

You're probably thinking, But, Gail, seriously, how can a grammar blog inspire a post for your own blog? Oh, easily, easily, dear ones.

Note this Grammar Monkey post on the subjunctive. Now, my grasp of the subjunctive is very weak. However, I feel warmly toward it because it always makes me think of my father-in-law. When I first met him, his son, my boyfriend, warned me that his father, a civil engineering professor and textbook author, was going to ask me about the subjunctive. "He knows you're an English major, and he's always asking people about the subjunctive, anyway. Be ready."

My response was, What the Hell? Be ready for what?

Well, sure enough, soon after meeting, my future father-in-law did bring up the subjunctive. "It is my favorite mood," he said.

I've never known anyone else with a favorite mood. Actually, except for an editor at Putnam, I doubt anyone else I've known knew what a mood was.

So, there you have it, a blog post inspired by a grammar blog. Go forth and look for those new blogs!

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut for the link.

UPDATE: Oops. I've told the subjunctive story here before. About four and a half years ago. Well, this just proves my original point, that if you've blogged long enough, you'll have read it all and blogged about it all.


Keeping The Magic In Blogging

Original Content's eighth anniversary was the beginning of this month, and instead of doing an anniversary post, I blogged about Sally. Social networking masters would point out that I missed a golden opportunity to generate some traffic at my blog with some book giveaways, maybe a blog tour, something. Anything.

My only excuse is that when anyone has experienced a great many anniversaries of any type, it's hard to get up a lot of energy for another one. Or sometimes even notice. (Though if Civil Guy sees this, be warned--we're getting out of town the weekend of July 23rd. At least, I am.)

I wouldn't have even noticed the eighth anniversary at all, but Greg Pincus did a post at The Happy Accident on what he described as The Blahgs--"the feeling you get when you lack the desire to keep on blogging." I've been hearing about this for a while now. It's not unusual to read of bloggers needing to take a break, needing to redefine why they're blogging in order to go on. I wanted to respond to Greg's post, the reponse involved figuring out how long I've been doing this, and there you go.

Meandering along here, I think a big part of litblogging is responding to material on the Internet--other blogs, literary columns, etc. I follow--superfically--a great many blogs, and something I've been noticing happening is that I often have days when I've waded through as much as I can without feeling a lot of excitment about anything I've seen. I've been doing this for eight years (See? This is the point where I checked to see how long O.C. has been around and learned I'd missed an anniversary), and what I think has happened is that I'm beginning to feel as if I've read it all before. Certainly, I have read a lot of it before. I have responded to a lot of it before. Yes, I can never read too much about Shirley Jackson and will probably always have a response. But another book controversy...another so-called celebrity author...another vampire story...another barking award...another list of some kind...I think anyone can see that if bloggers have been around long enough, they may very well get to the point that they just don't have anything more to say on a wide variety of subjects.

Now, I actually do have a bit of an assist for this problem--start reading different blogs. Because I'm a writer and not a pure lit blogger, I have some different interests I can call upon. In addition to kidlit blogs, I follow some author blogs, some writing blogs, and right now I'm following some editor and agent blogs. So I do get exposed to a little more variety of thought than someone who follows only one kind of blog. I've also had to drop some blogs over the years, usually because I felt the material covered was covered in other blogs, sometimes in many other blogs. You can't keep taking on more and more blogs because of that thing about time--within an individual life, anyway--being finite. You have to cull the pack every now and then.

So I would like to suggest that change may be what it takes to keep a blog going.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yeah, That's Going To Happen

Read Roger has a discussion going about blogs helping to create book buzz. In years past, I used to talk about blogs letting the traditional review journals do their traditional work of reviewing new books. Blogs, I insisted, could create a new reason for existence for themselves and fill a need by focusing on older books. (Which, these days, can mean last winter's.) Blogs could do something different and unique by reminding readers of books they'd missed, books that had value, books that were overlooked. Instead of trying to do what review journals do, this different medium could try to do something different.

Read the situation that inspired Roger's post and the comments he received. Does it sound to anyone else as if the blogosphere has been sucked right into the "big opening" that the publishing industry seems committed to right now? That the decision is made, a large portion of the blogosphere is supporting the status quo and will chat up the new until a new new comes along?

You may tell me if I'm being jaded and harsh.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Moderation In All Things

I've been getting spammed regularly these last couple of months. By the end of this week, I'll have seven years worth of posts archived here. I'll never live long enough to clean all the spam out of them. In fact, I just found spam on a bunch of the posts from my very first week in March, 2002.

So we've had to add moderation to the comments on all posts more than seven days old. Why seven? That's about how many posts turn up on the first screen, and I'll easily see if I have any spam there.

This will mean that late comers to the party won't be able to see their comments come up right away. However, it also means that I'll see their comments. Sometimes I realize that someone has commented on a two or three week old post, and I ended up missing it. So that, at least, will be fun for me.


Friday, December 19, 2008

In Case You Want To Know... to blog, check out How To Blog at Slate. Pay particular attention to "Add something new" and the bit under "Write casually but clearly" about not going on too long.

I was going to go on about that for a while, but it doesn't seem appropriate now, does it?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Notice My New Fan?

We were hit with a spammer in the comments' section last night. It appears to be from some kind of marketer, though what s/he was marketing was lost on me. The comment suddenly went up in many of my posts back until the beginning of September and in a few places before that.

We are considering our options.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Do Bloggers Who Review Even Want The Same Kind Of Respect Print Reviewers Receive? I Mean, Received?

In Will Blogs Save Books?, Lisa Warren opens with news about two more newspapers cutting back or possibily even eliminating book reviews. After which she asks, "...why don't we as readers give book reviews on blogs as much respect as book reviews in major market papers?" Then she goes on to advise bloggers on how they can write reviews that will sound more like the print reviews that nobody wants any more.

Also, I wasn't terribly surprised to hear that The Hartford Courant showed its book editor the door. The Courant is in the midst of cutting its staff by...ah...some huge percentage. The Courant cut back on the space it gave to books a year or two ago and given the way things are going with book reviews over all, I sort of expected its book editor was on her way out.

The paper rarely covered children's literature, so I don't think the loss of its book editor will have much impact on kidlit in Connecticut. We have the largest children's literature archive in the northeast, plus at least two very good annual children's literature events--The Connecticut Children's Book Fair and The Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature. Children's literature is well covered here.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Conclusion

Well, I'm exhausted. I never thought I'd live to see the day that I'd grow tired of talking about myself, but I am, indeed, weary. I'm sure I'll get over it, though.

I am very grateful to all my blog hosts. Two of them fit their hosting duties in before leaving on vacation. Two worked me around the ALA convention. Two had trouble getting e-mails to me. Two volunteered to host without being asked. One dear blogger contacted me when I was trying to contact a host on a listserv (because of that e-mail problem) to offer to fill in if needed. Seriously, everyone was wonderful. I'm not just saying that to be a polite guest.

If you missed any of the interviews and won't be able to sleep at night until you've read them all, here is a round-up of links:

Books Together
Sam Riddleburger
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Jen Robinson's Book Page
Big A, little a
The Miss Rumphius Effect
A Fuse #8 Production

Tomorrow is another day. I'll be on to new things.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Seven

The seventh and final stop on my blog tour for A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers is A Fuse #8 Production. Betsy and I talk about why chapter books don't get more attention than they do and why some of the attention they do receive involves parental complaints.

Betsy had to work in this stop around the ALA convention, plus I was still having e-mail problems at the end of the week, which caused a little flurry of worry for us. So I'm most grateful to her for hosting today.

Tomorrow I'll do a little round-up of blog tour activity for those of you who may have missed some stops or who enjoy reruns.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

The Three Robbers Celebration--4th of July Weekend Book Giveaway

My own book giveaway closed yesterday. We just did the drawing, and I notified the winners. However, you can still take advantage of the book giveaway my publisher, G. P. Putnam, is offering through my blog tour hosts over the 4th of July weekend. Each day a book will be given away through a different host, and, since the tour concludes tomorrow, I'll offer one here on Sunday so that every day of the holiday weekend is included.

So if you entered my original drawing and haven't heard from me today, or if you've just decided this minute that you'd like to try to win one of my books, you have three more chances:

Today: The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Saturday: A Fuse #8 Production.

Sunday: Back here at Original Content.

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Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Six

On day six of my blog tour, I'm visiting with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Please note the image of a very satisfied reader at the beginning of her interview with me. In this interview we get into theme (something I've been thinking about more than usual the last month or two), my school presentations, and how traumatized I was when my long-time editor left Putnam for another publishing house. Plus, do I see myself in any of my characters? You'll have to read the interview to find out.

I was having e-mail problems the past week or so (problems I was unaware of), which made for some difficulties communicating with Tricia. I want to thank her so much for her patience and for hosting this stop on the tour.

Tomorrow's the end of the line. I'll be visiting with Betsy at A Fuse #8 Production.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Three Robbers Celebration--A 4th Of July Weekend Giveaway

Those of you who have seen Big A, little a's interview with me, probably noticed a book giveaway sponsored by my publisher, G. P. Putnam's Sons. Putnam is going to continue offering a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers right through the 4th of July Weekend at different blogs.

Kelly got to make the offer today, my publication day. It will be Miss Rumphius's turn tomorrow, the 4th of July. The blog tour officially ends on Saturday, but Putnam's free book will be offered here on Sunday so that we can cover the full holiday weekend.

This giveaway is totally separate from the one I've been running here for the last month, which will end tonight with the drawing tomorrow. So, in a nutshell, what we're talking about here is...more free books!

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Three Robbers Blog Tour--Publication Day!

Today is the official publication day for A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers. It is very appropriate that I spend it with Kelly at Big A, little a, since she suggested this blog tour. Among the things we discuss are TV's impact on imagination and creating a reading culture.

As I said, this blog tour would never have happened if not for Kelly, and I want to thank her very much. Talking about myself for an entire week has been incredible.

But we're not done yet! We're continuing right into the 4th of July weekend. Tomorrow I'll be at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Get your entries in for the Three Robbers giveaway that I'm doing here through my website. We'll be drawing the winners tomorrow.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Four

Today Jen Robinson interviews me at Jen Robinson's Book Page. The two of us get down and dirty about problems with chapter books as a whole and why we don't see more reviews of them. We also talk about what the future might bring for Hannah and Brandon, assuming they have one.

Jen doesn't usually take part in blog tours, so I really appreciate her hosting a visit for me.

Tomorrow is publication day, and I'll be with Kelly at Big A, little a.

And, of course, you still have today and all day tomorrow to enter to win a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day Three

Day Three of my blog tour finds me at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Not only did Jules have the interview up before breakfast, when I saw it around 7:30 there were already two comments. This interview includes a link to my illustrator, Joe Cepeda, a photograph of Sam Riddleburger, who appears to be reading Club Earth in his kitchen (I have read in my kitchen, too), and a photograph of me in a dobok. You won't want to miss that.

This interview also includes a brief discussion of my writing process. This is the first time I can ever remember feeling comfortable talking about my writing process. In the early days, I don't know if I understood what writing process was, and I definitely wasn't aware of having one.

Thank you, Jules.

Tomorrow I will be at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

While you're waiting for tomorrow, you can still enter to win a copy of A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers. My copies arrived yesterday, so I can actually send the winners their books.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Three Robbers Blog Tour--Day One

The blog tour for A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers begins today at books together. Anamaria and I discuss ways in which chapter books are distinguished from other kidlit categories, the challenges of writing them, and that monster cat, Buttercup, who appears in both volumes of The Hannah and Brandon Stories. Many thanks to Anamaria for hosting me.

Tomorrow the tour stops at Sam Riddleburger's blog.

A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers will be published this Thursday, July 3rd. Remember you have until the end of that day to enter to win a copy of the book.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Just How Much Do Inquiring Minds Want To Know?

In her blog post A Blogger's Challenge: Privacy Vs. Authenticity, Mitali Perkins raises the question of how bloggers (her examples are all authors, but the question could apply to any blogger) balance an authentic voice with privacy. Can they be authentic and genuine without writing about all aspects of their lives?

Well, I think Mitali's question is an interesting one, and I've been dwelling on it since I read her post last night. (Not that it kept me up or anything.) I've recalled how I've noticed that many people become their work. We've known an engineer for many years. Engineering is absolutely a huge part of his identity and has an influence on all his interests. We know musicians who have worked, part-time, as musicians all their adult lives while supporting themselves and their families with day jobs. They are musicians--their lives are built around rehearsals, performances, attending musical events. Their lifestyle had a huge--and positive--impact on how they raised their children.

Over the years, I have become a writer. I think it informs and is connected to nearly everything I do. When you read this blog you really are getting an authentic view of my life because a great deal of my life is thinking about writing--what I'm writing now, what I could write about in the future, what other people have written. If I were to talk here about my children, my TV viewing, my shopping trips, what I make for dinner, you might be getting a less authentic voice, because I would be trying to isolate those portions of my life in order to say, Look, I have kids! I watch TV! I go shopping! Or you would be getting still more writing talk because my kids are a big part of my writing life, I analyze plots and characterization while I'm watching TV, and while I'm shopping I get ideas for stories that I sometimes forget about because I don't write them down or, if I remember that I have a notebook in my purse, I write them down and find them months and months later.

See, I just blogged about shopping and it turned into blogging about writing.

So, my long, drawn out point is that while people may choose to blog about whatever they like, at least in the case of writers, I don't believe we need to blog about anything but writing in order to be authentic.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thinking About Blogging

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has a post on "Blogging Thoughts" related to my interview at this month's The Edge of the Forest . She's got a nice little conversation going in the comments.

Read the original interview and read and take part in the conversation.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Lucky Number Seven

Books Together has just been added to the line-up for my Three Robbers blog tour. Anamaria, who posts at Books Together, is a member of the SCBWI. She's writing but not yet submitting.

So consider who will have a hand in this discussion of chapter books:

June 29th A children's author who is writing but not yet submitting.

June 30th A children's author who has published his first book. (Sam and I are both published by divisions of the Penguin Group.)

So those two bloggers may be covering the subject from a writer's angle or, you could say, a pre-publication angle. But we'll see what happens. It's sort of up to them.

Then we'll have:

July 1 Two librarians.

July 2 A literacy advocate.

July 3 A publisher of an on-line children's literature journal.

July 4 An education professor.

July 5 A librarian.

All those people may be covering the subject from the post-publicaton angle. So, you could say, we may end up going from the act of creating a chapter book to what you do with a chapter book once it's done.

Do you see how linear that is? Have I ever mentioned here that, when I'm actually organized and on task, I crave linearity?

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do You Want To Be Lucky Number Seven?

Sam Riddleburger just joined on for my blog tour, which is neat because now I have an author. I wanted as many different viewpoints as possible.

Here's the line-up:

June 30 Sam Riddleburger
July 1 Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
July 2 Jen Robinson's Book Page
July 3 Big A, little a (Kelly was the original mover and shaker behind this tour, so it's so appropriate that she be hosting on Three Robbers' publication date)
July 4 The Miss Rumphius Effect
July 5 A Fuse #8 Production

Do you have an interest in chapter books, meaning those books read by younger readers in, say, first through third grade? Would you like to be part of the conversation on the subject and, in passing, my new book A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers? If so, we still have an opening for Sunday, June 29. You can get in touch with me at

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blog Tour Opportunities

I have a lovely blog tour lined up for July 1 through 5. I was hoping to include a blogging bookseller and a blogging classroom teacher, but it appears that won't be happening. If I have any regular readers who I haven't contacted who would like to be included (preferably on June 29 and 30), get in touch with me at If you'd like to be part of the tour, but those dates don't work for you, get in touch with me, anyway. We'll double up on one of the July dates.

I only have a few arcs left, and I plan to send some to some publications. I'll hold off until later in the week to give my readers first shot at them.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Looking For A Blogging Classroom Teacher

This post is going to be pretty much a repeat of the last one, but if you're a classroom teacher for grades one through three, or have been a classroom teacher for grades one through three, you may not have read the last post because it was for booksellers. This one is for you.

I'm going to be doing a blog tour the week A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers officially hits its on-sale date. The hosting bloggers will be interviewing me about Three Robbers in relation to early chapter books in general. So we'll be promoting both my book and age group? field?

I have librarians, a professor of teacher education, and a literacy advocate lined up for July 1 through 5. (The book will be published July 3.) I'd like to find a classroom teacher familiar with kids in the early grades, their reading preferences, etc. to interview/host me on June 29th or 30th. My idea (and hope) is that all these different people will come at the subject from a different angle and ask different kinds of questions. It's an experiment. We'll see what happens.

I've found a number of blogging classroom teachers who teach 5th and 6th grade, but I haven't stumbled upon any who work with the younger kids. I can't believe you're not out there.

So if you are a blogging classroom and are interested in being part of this tour on either June 29th or 30th, e-mail me at

If you're interested but those dates aren't good for you, e-mail me, anyway. We'll double up on one of the other dates.

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Looking For A Blogging Bookseller

Well, folks, thanks to a suggestion made by Kelly from Big A, little a, I'm going to be doing a blog tour the week A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers officially hits its on-sale date. In order to give the blog a bit of a twist and feed one of my interests, the hosting bloggers will be interviewing me about Three Robbers in relation to early chapter books in general. So we'll be promoting both my book and age group? field?

I have librarians, a professor of teacher education, and a literacy advocate lined up for July 1 through 5. (The book will be published July 3.) I'd like to find a bookseller with an interest in books for early readers, say, kids in first through third grades. Or, you know, those children who are between picture books and middle grade novels.

My idea (and hope) is that all these different people will come at the subject from a different angle and ask different kinds of questions. It's an experiment. We'll see what happens.

So if you are a blogging bookseller and are interested in being part of this tour on either June 29th or 30th, e-mail me at

If you're interested but those dates aren't good for you, e-mail me, anyway. We'll double up on one of the other dates.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blogs And Writers

I just stumbled upon a couple of blog posts that discuss blogging and writers.

Colleen at Chasing Ray has a post up called Which Blogs Matter? on the subject of authors seeking out blog reviewers.

Editorial Ass has a question and answer post called Author Blogging, which is about authors blogging themselves.

I will add a point here that will be a sort of link between these two posts: Once you are a blogging author and part of the blogging lit community, Editorial Ass suggests, it becomes very difficult to approach bloggers to review your books, as Colleen at Chasing Ray suggests, because you know everybody. It's too much like asking the guy down the street or the woman in the cubicle next to you at work to put in a good word with you somewhere. The people being asked feel they can't say no, even if they want to, because they know you. Or else they feel they have to say no, even if they don't want to, because they know you. And how much good will the good word do you when the person receiving it knows the person giving it travels in the same circles with you?

It's sort of like finding out that that person you were getting on with like gangbusters at a conference and e-mailing with afterward is the children's editor for a review journal. You get all excited because you know this editor and she seems to like you. Then you realize "@#!!. Now she can never review anything I write because we know each other."

Really, it gets to the point where you begin to feel that networking is actually counterproductive and why don't you just lie on the couch and watch HGTV in your spare time?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Authors As Bloggers

Bookseller Chick has a couple more posts on authors and blogging.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Not Better, Not Worse, Different

Members of the blogosphere (at least the portion I inhabit) are wondering if blogging has had a negative impact on reviewing. This line of thought was inspired by an article in n+1 called The Blog Reflex, which was excerpted at a blog called Jess. (Just out of curiousity, has anyone read the entire article?)

Anyway, Fuse #8 saw the arguments made in The Blog Reflex as being "a slightly rehashed version of the eternal Should a Blogger Post Negative Reviews question that keep popping up."

Read Roger's response was that kidlit bloggers have "created a community of interested parties heretofore unknown in the children's book world...But I'm not sure it has lead to better reviewing: can we truly "all be in this together" at the same time some of us are judging the work of others?"

Here is my spin, which I know everyone is desperate to hear: We should be keeping in mind that the Internet is a different medium. What is published here is not supposed to be the same as what is published in traditional print media. Anyone who is posting "5,000-word critiques of their favorite books and records", as the original n+1 article suggested, hasn't researched her market, as we say in writing. I hate to sound simplistic and simple, but material written for the Internet is supposed to be short. Long stretches of unbroken text are deadly on the Internet.

Readers don't come to blogs to read the equivalent of one of those endless New Yorker articles on say, the quality of literary critism. They come to blogs to learn that those endless New Yorker articles exist and how to get to them should they wish to do so. Literary blogs, in particular, are a sort of directory of, a response to, a conversation about what is being written and read elsewhere and everywhere.

A metaphorical salon, perhaps.

Roger Sutton at Read Roger said in one of his comments that blogging is an "undifferentiated mix of news, gossip, shoutouts, trivia--and reviews." I don't think he meant that to be insulting, and I don't think it is. That is the salon aspect of blogging. The blog is different from other forms of writing. Not better, not worse, different.

Will the "coziness" (again from Roger) of these salons and their blog reviews have some kind of impact on reviewing altogether? I'm not sure. I learned a great deal about writing from reading the New York Times Book Review years ago and not because everything I read there was cozy and positive. Many of the reviews I read (I could get through) indicated a knowledge about writing and literature on the part of the reviewer that went beyond what he or she had to say about that particular book. Blog reviewers may very well have that same knowledge but when they only discuss what they like, they aren't necessarily getting an opportunity to share everything they know. If the coziness of blog reviewing makes the jump to traditional print reviews, I think something very well could be lost.

On the other hand, print reviewers seem to have such a bias against blog reviewers that it's hard to believe they'll be influenced by anything we're doing. In which case, we can all remain in our different worlds doing what we do...differently.

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Managing Blogs

A few days ago, my computer guy e-mailed me to ask, "how come you don't list motherreader in your list of blog links?" My response was, "I didn't realize I didn't."

I have a long, long list of blogs on my personal favorite list, which is what I use each day (or my blogroll at FlapJacket). I'm kind of overwhelmed and scattered in my reading, as you've probably surmised from other things I've said here. So MotherReader has finally been added to the official blogroll to your left. (Really, I would have sworn she was already there.)

During the question and answer portion of one of the panel discussions I attended yesterday while everyone was discussing work habits, one of the panelists said, "Whatever you do, don't start blogging." The feeling there was that blogging was a blackhole as far as sucking up time was concerned.

Personally, I don't think writing the posts is that bad--it's reading all the other blogs that takes a lot of time. Over the past month or two, I've been trying to find ways to cope with the workload. My newest brainstorm--scheduling. Read some blogs daily, some weekly, some on even days, some on odd days, some during a full moon. I think I'm on to something with this one.

First, though, I'm going to have to take some time to create a spreadsheet or flow-chart or something to work out my schedule.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Something I Missed

I was just cleaning out the in-box for one of my listservs when I found a link to a blog called Three Silly Chicks. The significance? Three Silly Chicks focuses on humorous books for kids.