Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Continued Love Affair With Cybil

Remember last year, when I was a round one panelist for the Cybils (Children and Young Adults Bloggers' Literary Awards)--and it was a complete hoot! I got to plow through 150 or so middle grade books. (The librarians at my local library got to the point where, when they saw me walk in, they would chant a joyful chorus of relief because my requests were literally weighing down their hold shelves.) 

This year, I've gone one better. I'm a round two judge, which means that, starting in January 2013, I will read the nominated shortlist, winnowed down to about six or seven titles by the intrepid first round panel, some of whom I know (Hi, Jill the Owl and Deb Marshall) and some of whom I'm looking forward to meeting (Kyle KimmelAmy KoesterAli Breidenstein, and Art Spencer.) Everyone knows our major domo, Karen Yingling, whom I believe to be the most voracious--as well as the most judicious-- reader on the planet. If you haven't yet done so, check out her amazing blog, Ms. Yingling Reads.

Ms. Yingling, doing a spot of time travel
In the round two panel, Jennifer Donovan was a fellow panelist last year (Hi, Jen!). I'm looking forward to getting to know the other three: Cameron Kelly RosenblumAndi Sibley, and Freya Hooper

Hopefully, all of you Writing Dangerously readers have got an idea of a book you'd like to nominate. Here's how to do so, from the Cybils FAQ page: 

Can anyone nominate?
Yes, anyone may nominate one book per genre during the nomination period. We post an online form from Oct. 1-15 every year.
Which books are eligible?
Any books published between the end of one contest and start of another. For 2012, that means books released between Oct. 16, 2011 and Oct. 15, 2012. This year, we are also accepting nominations for book apps for iPad, Web or computers.
Does it help if a book has lots of nominations?
NO! In fact, the online form will kick the nomination back if a book's already been listed. It needs to get on our radar only once for consideration. After that, it's up to the judges.
So ~~ Start your engines, folks. Cybils season is upon us!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Going Cold Turkey

I don't know if you heard the trumpets last week, but my youngest started kindergarten--which means that for the first time in 16 years I have the house to myself for over five hours straight. (No, I don't have a dozen kids... there's just a ten year age gap between my oldest and my youngest.)

I have been looking forward to some concerted writing time for a while. I'm heading towards the end of the first draft of my latest manuscript, and I really need to put in the hours so I can write those glorious words THE END before year's end. (That's my goal and I'm sticking to it.) But I knew I would be hard pressed to do that if I didn't take steps to quieten the social media hubbub to which I've become a part.

Two and a half years ago I didn't have a blog--let alone three. I wasn't on Facebook. I turned up my nose at Twitter. (And no, I'm not yet pining for Pinterest, or whatever is the latest social media du jour.) Don't get me wrong: I have enjoyed being a part of the interwebs and have met many dear people whom I now call friends (including all of you who are reading this.) But I was becoming addicted. I'd write a paragraph of my story, and then check my e-mail. Another sentence, and I'd shoot a glance at Twitter. As you can guess, being the debutante at the social media ball was beginning to eat away at my precious writing time.

So, I've gone COLD TURKEY. Yes, I've found a handy little app ("It's like your parents on steroids," it claims) that will block all sites for however long I want on any particular day. Usually, I'm at my desk at 9:30, and the kids come back between 2:30 and 3:30.  So I've set my Cold Turkey settings accordingly. Between those hours, I can't go on Yahoo! or update my Facebook status, or seeing what the tweeps are tweeting about. I can't even while away the time on my favorite blogs.

I'm getting a whole lot of writing done, and feeling like I have my willpower back. Have you tried Cold Turkey, or any other site like it? How did it go?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Two Thinkers on the Contemplative Life

I don't think you can disagree with the fact that writers need solitude and quiet. To burrow deeply into our creative minds, we need to shut that figurative--and possibly literal--door, and have the time and leisure to think. I know this is true, because for the first time in 16 years all three of my children are leaving the house for extended periods of the day, an activity commonly known as "school." Frankly, it is amazing to see how much I can get done when I don't have to deal with catering to five-year-olds or blowing the referee's whistle during sibling spats.

This week I read two resonant articles by writers I greatly admire. The first is by Junot Diaz, who wrote the stunning The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I briefly talked about HERE. Here is what he said to the Guardian, via the always interesting Shelf Awareness. The text in bold is my doing:

Time for Reading 'Should Not Be an Unattainable Thing'

"Books are surviving in this intense, fragmented, hyper-accelerated present, and my sense and hope is that things will slow down again and people will want more time for a contemplative life. There is no way people can keep up this pace. No one is happy. Two or three hours to read should not be an unattainable thing, although I hope we get to that stage without needing a corporate sponsored app to hold our hand. The utopian in me has my fingers crossed that we haven't quite figured out the digital future just yet. After all, the one thing we know about people: they always surprise."
--Author Junot Diaz in an interview with the Guardian

(Junot, I'm trying to prise out my eye-teeth for those two to three reading hours you mention. I'm lucky to get thirty minutes before nodding off to sleep at night. Still need to work on that!)

Then, from a longer piece from an Oregon writer, Matt Love, who's a great essayist:
Commentators frequently place the primary blame on cellphones, but really, fault lies with the addicts who habitually wield them. I say all this with a unique perspective because I live near the No. 1 tourist attraction in the state -- the Oregon Coast -- and routinely see tourists on the beach allowing cellphones to conquer their solitude. And I'm not talking about using them to take photographs or write poetry. I'm talking about willfully abandoning a temporary isolation to engage in what the Sex Pistols called "blah, blah, blah." 

(I tell you, the "Smart Phone" has taken over the known universe. I may be an alien life form: I don't have one. But I've certainly watched enough parents ignoring their children at playgrounds and swimming pools in favor of staring at mini-screens.)

It's easy to sound holier than thou, but I really think a writer can benefit from taking a detour off the information super highway--even for just a couple of hours a day. What think you?