Monday, April 30, 2007

Long Time No Blog

It's been a busy April, and I'm just now taking a breath and remembering that I started this blog.

Let's see, since last I blogged, I finished teaching my online Children's Writing Workshop. I posted final feedback for the students just last night. They all did some great work, and I expect to see many published works from them in the future.

EFA sponsored the class, and we used a Yahoo! Groups forum. I coordinate and serve as moderator for all EFA online classes, so I'm pretty familiar with the problems that can arise, either real or perceived, but this season has been a bear in terms of Yahoo!–specific glitches that interfere with messages, Groups access, and so on. To that, I say, "Grrrrrrr." I do appreciate that the service is free and easy to use. But I'm in complaint mode.

Today I started testing the beta version of the new sitebuilder Authors Guild is launching soon. From what I can tell so far, it features some nice upgrades. I'll definitely stick with it for my author site in the short term (what does that mean — through the summer? end of 2007? I don't know). I have 50 pages of content on my author site and 5 (I think? bad not to know off the top of my head) on my editorial services site, so I'm in no huge rush to re-create my wheel. I've started thinking about other options, though, including switching one or both domains to a blog platform like WordPress or TypePad. Um, yeah, or Blogger. Too soon to tell what I'll decide. Comment me if you have thoughts!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Taxes Filed!

I filed taxes yesterday — as did a very large percentage of my fellow last-minute-tax-filing U.S. citizens. It's always such a relief to finish, isn't it? I use TurboTax, which really is a remarkable piece of tax-preparation software. But, no matter how many times I've been through it, the whole process remains somewhat stressful for me. For a time (ahhh, the late 90s/early 0s), my husband was the designated tax filer at our house, but I've been handling the record keeping and actual filing by myself for the last few years. I don't know, it just seems fair since I'm the one adding the home-based business hoo-ha into the mix. The husband would gladly step up for the task anytime, mind you, but I just feel like I should be the one to power through the Schedule C I've added to our reality. And, at this point I am fairly comfortable with the process (never mind that I know how to find all the necessary records and receipts), so it's not that bad.

Hope to get back to blogging on children's writing soon. I'll finish working with my EFA Children's Writing Workshop over the next week or so. I'm also busy (at night) completing two batches of critiques for an annual regional writing competition — I can't tell you how much I learn from both activities! Then, it's back to the regular salt mines for me. I have assigned writings to complete, book proposals to submit, delinquent payments to chase . . .

Sounds like Spring!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Speaking of Lists: Literary A–Z

Have you ever listed your Literary A–Z? I did a couple of years back, and today's earlier post made me remember it. A friend, inspired by a Maureen Dowd column, wrote:

"If you had to come up with an alphabetical list of literary references that hold the secrets of your soul, what would be on it?"

I wrote back with my stream-of-consciousness A-to-Z of well-loved literary works. A few of them may hint to personal soul secrets, but all are simply books that definitely left a lasting impression. I cheated and listed two titles for a few letters, but only when I found it impossible to weigh the relative importance of the competing titles in my life. I had to really think to get X, and that's because it may be the only thing I've ever read whose title begins with that letter. (Plus, I actually read that story for work; so the thing to learn about me there is that I read, a lot, as part of my job. I couldn't tell you one thing about the story now. Nope, not even when I strain to remember it.)

I'm pasting in my list below, exactly as I wrote it in 2005. At the time I remember telling my husband that I wanted to also do the same thing for films and songs and "children's works only." Never did any of 'em, btw, but maybe someday.

I highly recommend writing out your own list, especially if you're a writer or an editor. It really gives you a sense of what types of books stick with you — for me, it was interesting to see that I read most of the titles in my teens and 20s. I read (and enjoy doing so) just as much now, but so much of my reading time is linked with my working time that it just takes longer for me to stumble upon the kinds of works that touch me in a way that would cause me to update my list.

In any case, listing your Literary A–Z is great fun, and it provides you and others with an interesting peek at your personal tastes and, I daresay, your own unique evolution as a thinking, feeling being. Challenge your friends, kids, and loved ones to make a list too.

A - Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
B - The Beautiful and the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
C - The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer / The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press
D - Death at Chappaquiddick, Thomas L. Tedrow
E - The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood
F - Frankenstein, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
G - Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth / The Gulag Archipelago, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
H - Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
I - The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
J - Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
K - King Midas: A Romance, Upton Sinclair
L - Les Miserables, Victor Hugo / Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
M - “The Mask,” Guy de Maupassant / Mysteries of Winterthurn, Joyce Carol Oates
N - Night, Elie Weisel
O - Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Gloria Steinem
P - “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Edgar Allan Poe
Q - The Quiet Man (a cheat; this is a movie based on a short story I have not read)
R - A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
S - Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
T - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
U - The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
V - The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
W - The Water-Method Man, John Irving
X - "X-ing a Paragrab," Edgar Allan Poe
Y - The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Z - Zone, The Dead, Stephen King (another cheat, but I stand by it!)

P.S. from 4/3: I just reread the column that inspired the activity and had to laugh. It's called "Love Lit 101," and in it Maureen Dowd talks about crafting such a literary list as a Valentine's Day treat for your sweet. (She actually went out and purchased the books. I guess writing for the New York Times must pay pretty well.) The piece brought back the memory of a college beau placing a strangely goal-oriented call to me in the middle of the night. No, no, no, it wasn't that kind of call. Sheesh.

Said boy, who was very smart but not a big fan o' the books, desperately needed my help, it seemed. He wanted me to list the 10 literary works I thought he — or any well-rounded man about town — should read and be able to reference in reputation-enhancing conversations with potential employers (and, I realized in hindsight, easy-to-impress chicks). Somewhat flattered and entirely enthusiastic about the project and the prospect of him reading some great books, I said something like, "Yay, let me think about it and get back to you in a couple of days with THE BEST LIST EVER."

But he needed the list right then, you see, while we were on the phone. Said something like, "Oh, I really wanted your opinion now. Otherwise I might not think of it again."

"Well, I won't forget," I said. "Just give me a day or so, and I'll hand over a list the next time I see you."

No deal. It was do or die time. Yes, that did seem odd to me. But, nonetheless, I put on my fast-thinking cap to hook him up with his very own emergency lit list. I don't recall what all I mentioned, but I do remember being adamant that, per his man-about-town posing interests, he had to read Of Mice and Men, Catch-22, and at least some Hemingway and Fitzgerald pronto.

Here's the funny part. Our very next meeting was the break-up (which, I must admit, was loooong overdue). The guy made a surprise visit to confess that he'd started dating others (which, I must also admit, did not come as a huge surprise).

He very generously gave me the option of continuing to see him under a "new, non-exclusive plan." But I replied, "No thanks, I'll pass on that."

We said our good-byes, and he expressed his seemingly genuine surprise that I'd chosen to end things. He also chose — as the last thing to say to me after two and a half years — to thank me for the book list. (Nice.) He really appreciated it and knew he would benefit from it.

I felt so used . . . and respected . . . all at the same time. Really, when you think about it, when does THAT emotional combo ever present itself?

As the door closed behind him and I headed for the shower (to wash that man right outta my hair 'n' such), all I could think about was that list. And how I hoped he'd choke on it.

Surely some of those details could work in a YA story! Dontcha think?


Today has been all about the lists. I outlined the day, identified tasks for the week, prioritized the month's projects by creating a realistic personal schedule, researched and listed likely publishers for the two side projects I'm working on — although, as an aside, is something really a "side project" if I can reasonably expect to get paid for it down the road? — asked my Children's Writing Workshop students to list goals for the remainder of the class, and filled out/passed on one of those "4 things about me" emails. (What, I can't take a 5-minute break to tell friends that I like cheeseburgers?)

Why all the listing? Well, it just seemed like the thing to do. I have several work-related live events this week (e.g., a meeting, a writers group, a speaking engagement, and a schmooze-fest), so today's activities have helped put me in the right frame of mind to step outside the house as a professional. Guess it's a calming thing for me.

Now, I'm not shy, nor do I suffer from any particularly debilitating social anxieties. I enjoy interacting with humans, and I happen to adore leaving the house. In fact, former live-action colleagues have wondered — aloud, and somewhat loudly — how my social self fares in the potentially isolating world of freelancing. The truth is that I do miss many aspects of working in an office environment, not the least of which is the increased opportunity for chit-chat (and lunchtime cheeseburgers).

But — more to the point of the truth — I have gotten used to working for myself, with myself, by myself, and despite myself. Took to it immediately, I must say. When I'm working, my first thought has always been about seeing the end result. If I have a job to do, I want to do it. Working alone gives me the unbelievable gift of whittling away at a task with few interruptions and getting to see things through to the bitter end on (mostly) my own terms. I get to live a working writer's dream. And I like it heaps and bunches.

However, for a work-from-homer, a 2-hour outing where you need to "be" your professional self can seem like a HUGE wrench in the workweek. That it feels that way is laughable, really. But there it is. So list I did today. And list again I will do in the future.