Saturday, June 30, 2007

Will you be number 731?

If you type the following phrases into Google, you get the following results:

Currently working on a novel = 40,000 web sites

Currently completing a novel = 4,000 web sites

Recently completed a novel = 730 web sites

Thanks to the Authors Guild for this.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Advice from George Burns

I love George Burns. Who doesn't?

Here is a quote from him that I have edited to suit my needs:

The secret to a good children's book is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible.

Note: For the actual quote, substitute the word "sermon" for "children's book."

Summer in New England

Remember this?

That was three days ago.

Same scene today:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Go ahead, make my day

I received a letter from a teacher yesterday that made my day. It's wonderful when one of my books is appreciated by adults - but even more wonderful to know that children love it - because, after all, to quote the ole Hokey Pokey song: that's what it's all about.

I'm so glad that she shared this with me. Those kids are pretty darned lucky to have a teacher like this.

Her letter (appearing here with her permission):

Thank you for writing such a wonderful book! I stumbled upon How to Steal a Dog while perusing Borders. I was looking for a book that addressed poverty, but I knew my students loved "dog" books, so I picked it up. I bought one copy and thought I was going to use it for a read aloud, then I realized that it addressed poverty. A month prior, I received a grant to purchase books about poverty and How to Steal a Dog was perfect! I ended up ordering 25 copies.

I know a book is "good" when it can hold my students' attention on the last day of school. We were using the book as a class novel (they read it outloud, with partners, independently...), but time slipped away from us and we only had 2 days before school ended to finish the last few chapters. I had to take over and read the remainder of the book aloud. Another teacher walked by my room on the last day and was shocked when she saw all of my students sitting and only heard my voice from the classroom. Throughout the building there was the normal chaos the end of the year brings, but in my classroom, students were deep in thought worrying about Willy and Georgina and Carmella and of course about a new home for the family.

I teach in a school where 93% of the students live in poverty. Some have been homeless on occassions. I think the students understood how Georgina felt. They have been embarassed when others see them at the food bank. They have been angry when their mother doesn't have the $3.00 for a field trip. And they have been ashamed that they couldn't afford the "in" clothes and shoes. I applaud you for writing a book that doesn't portray the ideal life, where everyone lives in suburbia and the biggest problem is a divorce. Thank you as a teacher for writing literature that addresses real social issues!

I am going to use the book again next year, and for years to come. We had a lot of discussions as we read the book, and the students often wrote about how Georgina felt or they tried to explain why stealing is sometimes an "ok" thing to do. Do you have any other ideas or suggestions that I should try out next year? I have read your discussion guide, but am wondering if you have any other ideas, or insights that you would like to share.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

A grateful teacher,

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dog days of summer

In my e-mail this morning:




I'm diggin' it. (For now..)

My dog is very smart:

Louisiana's Song

I just finished Louisiana's Song by my Smoky Mountain Soul Sister, Kerry Madden.

I have one word:


Ha! Got ya!

Why am I disappointed?

Because there's only one more book in this beautiful trilogy about the Weems family.

I loved this book. I loved the characters. I loved the setting. I loved the voice. I loved the humor.

I've gotten to know Kerry a little bit online - and I can tell that her spirit shines right through in her writing. Also evident is her love of the beautiful Smoky Mountains that I consider my heart's home, her deep respect for the mountain traditions of family and music, and her admiration of her husband's Tennessee family who inspired these stories.

The main character, Livy Two, is just a great big bundle of spunk. How can you not love a girl who says things like: "I do not sleep when critical eavesdropping needs doing."

Or who tells the teacher that her sister is not at school because of "a sparkly migraine", "dragon flu", or a "close encounter with a water moccasin."

Or who calls someone a "know-nothing flap-jaw."

Louisiana's Song continues the story started in Gentle's Holler.

I can't wait till the third book, Jessie's Mountain, comes out in 2008.

And then....disappointment.

No more stories about the Weems.

But then again - you never know....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oh, yeah!

Oh, yeah - bring on the summer, baby! I'm just sittin' here in my summer office.

P.S. That 82 degree figure is the temperature indoors. Good thing I have that fan there.

Poor, poor, pitiful me

If I ever whine about my work, somebody please - SLAP me.


I could be in a cubicle never seeing the light of day.

Or hollering out the drive-up window: Do you want fries with that?

But instead, I am sitting in my summer office doing what I love. My summer office is heaven. (I live in New England. Summer lasts about 4 my summer office is even more special.)

Here is a tour of my summer office:

My special notebook, ready and waiting:

My desk:

A dog at my feet under the desk:

A cat in a chair at the desk:

A fern, because all screened porches, um, I mean, offices, must have a fern:

A sofa in case someone wants to nap:

A dog on the sofa napping:

Chairs for the reporters from all those newspapers and magazines who want to interview me:

A hummingbird feeder:

A hutch to hold the iPod that is playing Poor, Poor Pitiful Me by Linda Ronstadt:

A well-stocked refrigerator:

A coat rack to hold garden hat and barbecue mitts and other important office stuff:

A heater for cold nights (hey, this is New England, folks):
Not a bad gig, huh?

I love my job.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Before and After

No Words


Dear Mrs. O'Connor

Got another great letter from a kid recently - here 'tis, exactly as written, creative spellings and all:

Thank you for coming to my school. I also thank you for answering my numurous questions. I was enchanted by the descryptions of your glorious books. I have not personally read any of them but I hear my friends talk vivaciously about them. The amount of knowledge I reicieved from your talk was astonishing.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Farmer in the dell

My new pedometer has instructions for attaching it to your bib overalls. There's even a photo.

Farmers wear pedometers?


When I'm working on a book, I think about it a lot throughout the day. Sometimes an idea or a particular phrase pops into my head - and I've finally learned to WRITE IT DOWN.

So I have about 15 little memo pad sheets of paper stuck in my special wonderful notebook and yesterday I pulled them out and one of them said:

cry cause dead under porch


I wonder what that means?

Honestly, I have no earthly idea what that means.

I sure hate to think I had this great idea and now I don't know what the heck it was.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Read all about it

Now, just in case your video monitor is not letting you read that clearly, here is what it says:

After weeks (and some say months) of talking about it, yammering about it, bragging about it, thinking about it, not thinking about it, and basically not dooing anything about it, author Barbara O'Connor has finally done it - started that dern book.

Friends and neighbors were astounded to find her actually at home. Sitting. Putting pen to paper.

"Aw, shut up, " O'Connor said to skeptics. I had to wait until I found my special notebooks, okay?"

O'Connor plans to have her next blockbuster bestseller finished by the end of the summer.

Ha! Good luck!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ready, set, go

Okay, I'm ready to start my new book. Today. Right now.

I have the special notebooks.

These things are great. They have nice paper that is smooth and feels good to write on.

AND - they make your writing better.

See? They give the "best writing features."

(Seriously, I'm hooked on these notebooks. I got them in Santa Fe a few years ago and used them to write Greetings from Nowhere. Then I had to search obsessively on the internet to find more of them - and I'm very good at obsessive internet searching.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

8 Reasons Why I Haven't Started My New Book

  1. I have to think about it a little longer.
  2. Every minute of the day has been consumed with reading massive piles of manuals to redesign my web site.
  3. I need a special notebook made out of special paper like the special notebook I used for Greetings from Nowhere.
  4. I have to alphabetize my spices.
  5. I have to read thirty blogs daily.
  6. I need my house to be totally empty and quiet and the birds must stop that annoying chirping outside my window.
  7. I am too busy shopping on eBay.
  8. I'm starting tomorrow and tomorrow is always tomorrow, if you know what I mean.

Okay, okay, you get the point....

I'm starting tomorrow.....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My baby's all grown up

While cleaning stuff off my computer recently, I came across this pic (of my editor's office).

Awww, so cute!

How to Steal a Dog was just a baby back then!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Note to self

As I sip this margarita, I'm reminded of another quote of Steve Martin's:

"Writers' block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol."

Note to self:
Do not shop at while drinking margaritas.

Who knew?

I love reading obituaries. (discussed in one of my previous posts). I find them to be a goldmine of characters.

There was an interview on NPR yesterday with a woman who founded the International Association of Obituarists.

She's known as the "Obit Lady."

It was fascinating to hear her talk about the art of writing obituaries.

She said that at some newspapers, the obit writers are on the low end of the heap - but at newspapers that know what they're doing (i.e., the better newspapers), the obit writers are the cream of the writers crop.

Her organization just had a big conference. (Ninth Great Obituary Writers Conference).

There's a whole world of obit writers out there!

There is even an obituary writers blog.

Who knew?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Problems of writing Southern

Southern writers have to deal with problems other writers don't, mostly because of Southern terms, expressions, dialect and rhythm. They also drive copy editors crazy. (I talked a bit about that here.)

We love those words like danggit, dern, and hissy fit.

So I got a chuckle out of this quote from an article about writing by Steve Martin:

"Dagnabbit will never get you anywhere with the Booker Prize people. Lose it."

Guess I'll never win that dern Booker Prize. Danggit!

Friday, June 15, 2007

So many books, so little time

Quote from Frank Zappa:

"I think it's good that books still exist, but they do make me sleepy."

I have this problem.

It gets worse as I get older.

I save most of my reading time to bedtime.

I fall asleep after two pages.

It takes a very long time to read a book.

But then, I guess if you're old enough to know the lyrics to Frank Zappa songs, then, well, just get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning. zzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Embarrassing Editor Moments

Remember how nervous you were the first time you met your EDITOR?

So here's my embarrassing first-time-meeting-editor moment.....

My editor from Carolrhoda (back when I was writing biographies) was in Boston for a conference and we arranged to meet - for the first time.

I was so new and so green and so, well, nervous.

I'd never had a real live face-to-face meeting with an editor before.

We had lunch at a restaurant in Boston. I survived (but probably had spinach in my teeth).

Afterwards, we went to the convention center where she was attending the conference. I was following her and not paying attention and we went through a revolving door. Okay, so, since I wasn't paying attention, I ended up in the same section of the revolving door as she was in, if you know what I mean.

So I'm doing itty bitty little shuffle steps to keep from crashing right into the back of her -

- and then my shoulder-bag purse somehow got stuck in the section of the revolving door behind us.

So, I'm, like, getting semi-strangled, and the door is jammed and the guy in the section of the door behind us is trying to free the purse and, well....

It's probably hard for you to even visualize this, but trust me...


And I did not look like a cool person.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wanted.... candelabrum.

See that candle holder? The one with the black shade and the three candles? The one nestled in there among the whiskey bottles?

I want it.

I need it.

I must have it.

I have looked and looked and looked.

It is called a bouillotte candelabrum.

I cannot find it.

It must NOT be electric.

I know this has nothing whatsoever to do with writing, but, hey, I just thought I'd give it a try.

Actually, I did find one once in an antique store. It went down like this:

Snotty lady: May I help you?

Me: Yes. I'm interested in this bouillotte candelabrum. [ha! She didn't think I'd know that term.]

Snotty lady: Oh? Really?

Me: How much is it?

Snotty lady: Let me check this big expensive leather book I have on my 15th century mahogany desk.

Me: Okay, but make it snappy. My driver is waiting outside. [Naw, I didn't really say that. But I should have.]

Snotty lady: It's $5500.


Snotty lady: Shall I wrap it up for you?

Me: Um, let me think about it.

So - I need to find a bouillotte candelabrum for less than $5500. Preferably less than $3300. Preferably less than $1000. Preferably less than.....


According to my Statcounter, someone in Blountsville, Alabama, found my blog by googling "coonhound."


Told ya...

If there is one person in the entire universe who actually read my 8 Facts post (come on, there must be one person...), fact #2 was that I tape Judge Judy (and watch it) every day.

You may find that hard to believe, but it is true. To prove it, here is the judge's gavel given to me by my husband and son as a symbol of my ridiculous love of Judge Judy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


... Stacy DeKeyser gets to be Junior Soul Sister because she writes children's books and has been to Colonel Pool's BBQ Restaurant and Pig Hill of Fame in Ellijay, Georgia (and it was closed the day she was there, too).

Definitely Soul Sisters

Okay, so my Smoky Mountain Soul Sister I told you about - Kerry Madden? Well, I just found out she's been to the Cross Garden in Prattville, Alabama. I went there on my recent roadtrip.

Is that weird or what?

Raise your hand if you write children's books set in the Smoky Mountains and have been to the Cross Garden in Prattville, Alabama.

Write No Evil

My mother-in-law gave me this great monkey pen holder. It has those See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil monkies.

The last one is Write No Evil:

I love that. (But it is just so, so tempting to write evil.)

Monday, June 11, 2007


I have OMD: Obsessive Manual Disorder.

My current project is revamping my entire website and switching from FrontPage to Dreamweaver.

In order to do that, however, I must read massive amounts of manuals. (Hey, they're all different, okay?)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Roadtrip Part 3

We visited the bedroom where Elvis was born:

At 4:35 a.m., and here's my proof:

Driving thru Geraldine, Alabama:

Look, a driving range!



Husband: Let's go hit a bucket of balls.



The driving range:

General Grant thought Port Gibson, Mississippi, was too beautiful to burn. I agree. A lovely town.

A wild and crazy - and definitely interesting - roadtrip.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Roadtrip Part 2

Food...glorious food! Isn't it amazing how certain foods take us back to our childhood? My recent roadtrip thru parts of the South was a real culinary walk down memory lane. (I grew up in the South.)

I love these. You can get them at every convenience store in the South. I can't find them where I live now.

We ate in lots of places like this one in Alabama:

The waitress tried to explain what a barbecue baked potato was. She said it had "them itty bitty green things" on it. Those were chives. It also had cheese and barbecue sauce.

I drank lots and lots and lots of sweet tea. I love it. My husband and son took one sip and asked for it to be diluted with unsweetened tea.

We ate at this place in White, Georgia:

I did not have Lynn's Fried Cheesecake - but I did have a pimiento cheese sandwich on white bread that was heavenly and turned me into an 8-year-old again.

Alas, this place was closed:

The owner's name is really Reverend Colonel Poole. You can have your name painted on a pig for the Pig Hill of Fame:

I ate grits and biscuits but, alas, no hushpuppies or boiled peanuts. (I only saw a sign for boiled peanuts once. They are everywhere in Georgia and South Carolina.)

So, that's my culinary roadtrip. Hungry?

Thursday, June 7, 2007


This is my Smoky Mountain Soul Sister, Kerry Madden. She has a coondog! Well, he's part coondog, but still....

Here's what she said about him:

"If he goes to the coondog cemetery, I will write Bad Coon! Slobber Coon! Thieving, cakestealing no good coon."

Roadtrip Part I

Back from my roadtrip thru the Deep South. I'm starting with my favorite part: The Coonhound Cemetery in Mynot, Alabama. For those unfamiliar with coonhounds, this is a redbone coonhound.

And this is a blue tick coonhound:

The coonhounds buried here were real working dogs (used to hunt, duh, raccoons). The cemetery was waaaaay back in the woods:

The very first dog to be buried there was Troop, in 1937:

I loved the variety of gravesites:

Those ole dogs sure were loved!