When Is It Time to Change How You Set Goals?

dry eraseWe all know that I’m big into setting goals.  That said, every now and again I need to revamp how I do it.

I have been setting goals by tacking lists up on a bulletin board divided into the days of the week.  Maybe it is because the Bulletin board is just behind my right shoulder, but I am finding it increasingly easy to ignore.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been cleaning out in my office which is cutting into my writing time just a bit.  I don’t clean for hours a day.  In fact I don’t generally clean for more than about 15 minutes a day which explains why I’m not done.  But I am making progress.  My end goal is to move a bookcase out and put a chair in its place.  Am I crazy?  Move a bookcase out?  Unfortunately, I use to bookcase as a place to stack stuff that should be filed.  Or recycled.  Or read.

I’ve cleaned off two shelves and have three more to go.  Then I’ll decide which chair gets a new home in here along with a few other things including some art work which I will put above the chair.

Maybe that’s why the whole goal setting thing has come to a head.  When my darling husband heard that I wanted the book case gone, he got all happy.

Him:  You can hang that bulletin board there.

Me:  Seriously?  In my art work spot?  I don’t think so.  Besides I’ve just been ignoring it.

Him:  Then why is it still balanced on top of the printer?

Excellent question!  I decided to try out a new system that is small enough to sit on my desk beside my monitor.  At the moment it is precariously balanced on top of a pile of homemade crayons but here is how it works.

I’m using a picture frame as a dry erase board.  The first column (green) is paying jobs with deadlines.  Yellow is things I’m not being paid for that have deadlines (blogging, volunteer work, submissions for conference critiques, etc.).  Red is slush; things I want to get out for which I don’t have a contract.  This includes contests and various essays, devotionals and book projects.

We’ll see how this works.  And, yes, the bulletin board is temporarily still balanced on the printer while I test this new system out.



Who Are These New Adults You Speak of?

Title #1 on the Goodreads list.

Just last week, I came across a new literary term — New Adults.  You can write for a middle grade audience, a young adult audience or a new adult audience.  Aren’t these what we’ve been calling cross over books?  I decided to click and read and see how various other people are defining this category.

At Dear Author, Jane explains that these characters are post-high school but not yet loaded down with adult responsibilities.

Kelly at Stacked , points out that this is more of a marketing term than anything else.  They use it to indicate books with a YA feel but more adult content.

At Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, they explain that this is meant to fill a gap between 18 years old and 30.

So . . . as always there seems to be very little agreement.  Lots of kvetching about it being more than just sex, which leads me to believe that there must be a lot of sex or there wouldn’t be a need for all the kvetching.

Jill Corcoran had a link to the Goodreads new adult reading list.   Lots of skin.  Lots of snogging.

So what is New Adult?  Cross over plus?  Prime time?  I’m still not 100% certain, but none of my work is a fit so it isn’t a huge issue for me just yet.



Michigan State University Digitizes Civil War Documents

Although Michigan was not the site of even a single Civil War battle or skirmish, numerous soldiers were from this state.  As a result, Michigan State University became the repository of a variety of letters, journals and musters and photographs.  The university has been digitizing these holdings and has made them available online.

Not only have they scanned or otherwise imaged the journals and letters, they have transcribed them as well.  The materials that I read through had the image and the transcription side by side.  You can check the original text yourself but you can also take advantage of their practice in reading sometimes faded or blotchy pages.

Click here to view a news video about this project.

Isn’t it marvelous when more primary materials become available online?


Is This Really What They Ate?

Darwin and some experimental Roman cooking collide in my kitchen.

Last Thursday, we had a snow day.  Scads and scads of glorious snow.  It also meant that Jared was home all day.  He played some video games, of course, but he also engaged in some experimental cooking.

He made a Roman pear souffle.  The recipe dates to approximately 35 AD.

It smelled really good and I’d like to say we adored it.  That’s what I’d like to say.  But the truth is that it was a little too interesting to love.  It combined pears, red wine and cumin.

Yep.  Interesting.  It left me wondering just how much our tastes have changed.  I doubt seriously that Roman cooks spent a great deal of time fixing things that no one wanted to eat.  Yet, none of us were thrilled with the results.  Clearly, we like very different things.

Part of the issue may be the unorthodox preparation methods.  Jared almost  decided to use my mixer.  Or the blender.  He couldn’t make up his mind.  Finally he decided to go with the level of technology that a Roman would have access too.  When I came into the kitchen, he was using the potato masher.  That wouldn’t have been my choice but then I looked at the directions.  They called it a souffle but looking at how they told you to prep it, custard probably would have been more accurate.

But I’ve also been wondering how much the ingredients may differ between then and now.  What first lead me to question this was a quote from Charles Darwin.  “The pear, though cultivated in classical times, appears, from Pliny’s description, to have been a fruit of very inferior quality . . . But the gardeners of the classical period, who cultivated the best pear they could procure, never thought what splendid fruit we should eat. . .” [Darwin, Charles (1998-03-01). On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (p. 19 and 20). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.]

If the pear of Darwin’s time has notably changed from that of the Romans,  how much more different is our pear?  Could that be part of the reason we were less than thrilled with this recipe?

What does all of this have to do with writing?  Whenever you write about a historic period, whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you need to get a feel for their world.  Their foods?  I’m left wondering how accurate our attempts at their recipes truly are.

Just a little food for thought.


Peter Pauper Press Adds Picture books

Peter PauperReady for another new market?  This one isn’t entirely new but newly expanded.

Peter Pauper Press (cool name!) was founded in 1928.  They publish a variety of books including gift books, humorous books and travel guides.  Their children’s offering before now include various activity books, including the Brainiac’s Activity Books, the Scratch & Sketch series, and the Ready, Set, Draw! Series.

They are now adding hard cover picture books to their list, starting with Rebecca Dudley’s Hank Finds an Egg which will come out this May.

A link to the children’s tab on their web site currently features the Scratch and Sketch books with side bar links to their other offerings.

Click here for their submissions guidelines which includes an electronic submission form.

Good luck with your submissions.



What Have I Learned as a Craft Writer?

Education com logoFirst things first, here are links to my latest bunch of crafts and activities at Education.com.

Comedy and Tragedy Masks.” I made the tragedy mask and Jared made the comedy mask.  Unfortunately, he finished before I finished tragic Medusa and started back-seat crafting.  I shouldn’t fuss.  All of his ideas were top notch.

Crayon Hearts.”  When I looked at how other people did these, using silicon ice cube molds, there were a lot of warnings about not using molds that you plan to use with food.  I finally found one crafter who explained why.  She couldn’t get the mold clean again.  I used cup cake forms instead.  I don’t know if its because they are meant to handle hot or what but I had no problems with clean up.

Grille Cipher.”  Cut outs in a special sheet of paper reveal the hidden message when placed over the right print out, article or page in a book.

How to Make an Accordion Card.” I did this as a Valentine’s Day card but it could just as easily be for any other occasion.

Ice Balloons.”  Think frozen water balloons with colored water.  And, yes, you will discover several balloons with pinholes.  Messy, messy fun.

Ice Cube Painting.”  Take frozen paint-cubes out right before you are going to take the photo.  Need I say why?

How to Make a Laurel Wreath.”  “Mom, why am I the model and you’re the photographer?”

Invisible Writing.”  Lemon juice ink hides a message in the background of another piece of art.

Negative Space Drawing.”  Negative space is the space between objects in a painting, drawing or photo.  In negative space art, the artist colors this negative space instead of the primary object, creating a silhouette.  I did this with lettering.

Sock Craft.”  Winged socks to go with Hermes’ winged sandals.

Craft writing is a lot like the chicken and the egg.  What do you do first — the write-up or the craft?  Initially, I did the write-up, made the craft, then rewrote which always included a lot of changing instructions to reflect what worked vs. what hadn’t.   Lately, I’ve been crafting first and then writing second.  That seems to be a bit smoother since I know exactly what works and what doesn’t before I do the write-up.  I will confess.  Sometimes I still do the write-up first so that I can make my daily word count.

It can also be tricky to describe certain maneuvers.  The big one this time around was how to describe folding the accordion card.  It is made from wall paper and you want the front cover and back cover to reveal the patterned wall paper.   That might be enough of an explanation for a veteran crafter but it isn’t going to cut it for a second grader.

One part crafter + one part writer + one part photographer = one craft writer.  If you have these skills, think about submitting some of your own work.


Scarletta Press Reading Now

Some publishers handle the slush pile by only accepting manuscripts at certain times of the year.  Such is the case with Scarletta Press.  According to their site “Our Junior Readers and Kids imprints focus on literature and picture books with educational twists, exciting illustrations, and engaging plots.”

If you have something that might fit this description, visit their submission page and also check out their catalog.  Their stated focus is on c

  • hildren’s fiction, middle-grade fiction, educational fiction and nonfiction as well as picture books.

Their list so far is fairly small but they have an interesting array of books.  Clearly, someone is interested in cooking as their is both Cool World Cooking on the Scarletta Jr list and also the adult nonfiction Knives on the Cutting Edge, under the Red Portal Press imprint. I’m not sure about this latter press which is described as a hybrid imprint specializing in author subsidized works, so proceed with caution.

That said, if you want to submit to them, you are going to have to do it soon.  Their reading period only continues until March 1.

Special thanks to The Crooked Book who brought this press to my attention.


How Would You Describe Your Critique Group?

The MuffinWhat is the first thing that you think of when you think of your critique group?  Mine is a jumbled image of laughter, food, fun and story.  They are among my biggest supporters.  They are, quite simply, the best.

They always have my back which means that they not only point out where I need to grow as a writer but they also have no qualms about showing me what I’ve done right.  Nope.  They are not going to let me wallow in self-involved angst, at least not for very long.

When I talk to other writers who insist that their group is the best, I know that they have what I have.  A group that fits perfectly with what they need.

Unfortunately, finding just the right critique group is a lot like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans.  Sometimes there’s an uncomfortable pinch or altogether too much space.  You may think that you know what you want until you get it and realize that, no, that isn’t working either.   Expect that it is going to take several tries to find the right group.

That’s the topic of yesterday’s blog post on the Muffin.  If you don’t have a critique group, check it out for hints on how to find or create a group that will meet your needs as a writer.


Do You Have the Right Book for President’s Day?

There’s no school today because of President’s Day.  This means my son is off so I’ll be joining him for some fun and relaxation and presidential book or two.

My current favorite, because books are like chocolate and the one I just finished is always my favorite, is The Camping Trip that Saved America by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein (Dial).   This picture book is all about how Muir convinced Roosevelt to save the wild spaces in our country.  

For those who love fiction, there’s a fun new book about a young villain determined to take over the White House — Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (Amulet).  He is also the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

Take some time today to prop up your feet and enjoy a good book.  See you tomorrow!


Why Your Book Trailer Needs to Fit the Mood of Your Book

Check out this fun trailer for Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis.

I’m still waiting for my copy of the book, but given what I know about it, this trailer suits the book perfectly.  It is funny, it doesn’t take itself very seriously and its just a little off.  All of these things describe what I know about the book as well.

Given that Timmy solves mysteries, Pastis might have been tempted to go for a dark, film noir feel for his trailer.  But everything from the graphics, to the font, to the music is goofy.  This,  of course, is a much better match for a book that combines text and graphics.  You may not have read a single word from the book itself but you have a feel for the character and the tone of the book.

A reader who goes into the book expecting certain things from the trailer will not be disappointed in what they discover within the book itself.

I am currently marketing a nonfiction picture book about animals.  Yes, I have rhyming lines but humorous cartoons wouldn’t fit the more serious tone.  Unfortunately, I have a much better feel for what wouldn’t work than I do for what would.  Maybe that ‘s an okay place to start, but at this point I wouldn’t mind a few solid ideas.

Think about your own manuscript.  What would you need to include in the trailer for the same effect?