Monday, September 30, 2013

I hate you, Kate DiCamillo

Ha! I knew that subject line would get your attention!

But, seriously, Kate, listen up.

First you go and write that Winn Dixie book that we all love. So now we think, okay, this newcomer Kate gal is gonna deliver some dang good realistic fiction with some funny stuff and some sad stuff and a preacher man and all. Can't wait for the next one, blah blah blah. (And, yeah, yeah....there was that sticker thing and that movie thing.)

But THEN you go and write that Despereaux book! I mean, what the heck, Kate? That's not realistic fiction! That's a rip-roaring good mouse adventure. (And yeah, yeah, there was another sticker thing and another movie thing and all.)

Do you stop there? Oh, no. You whip out that toy rabbit Tulane book with all those great stories woven together and stuff.

Then you toss in a few Mercy Watsons just to really keep us on our toes. (I mean, easy readers or middle grade, which is it gonna be, Katie?)

And I'm not even going to say the words Bink and Gollie. 

But, now, dear Katie, you have really gone and done it.

You wrote Flora and Ulysses.

A book so hilarious, so fresh, so whacko, crazy cuckoo wonderful.

So different.....

I mean, you're giving me literary whiplash here, Kate.

How am I ever supposed to predict what you're going to write for us next?

The only thing I can probably put my money on is that it will be great.

Cause that seems to be how you roll.

P.S. I don't really hate you. Writers never hate one another. (We might hate a copyeditor once in a while, but never a writer.) But in my next book, there might be a poor unfortunate cockroach named Kate who makes an ill-timed dash across the kitchen floor just as a heavy, steel-toed boot is coming down (hard). 

Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Things I Love Thursday

I love these Yoo-hoo boats made by Mrs. Terlecky and Mrs. Harper's fifth grade class in Dublin, OH!

 They made them as an activity related to their reading of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.

Thanks, y'all! I love them!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Big Apple

I'm off for two whirlwind days in the Big Apple.

I'm meeting my agent, Barbara Markowitz, for the first time in EIGHTEEN years!! Yes, I said 18. I know, I know.....hard to believe. But she lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast and it just hasn't happened - until now!

I'll be visiting with my great team at FSG.

I'll be visiting my dear friend and editor, Frances Foster.

I'll have a lovely dinner with my lovely son.


Monday, September 23, 2013

A Pathetic Excuse for a Blog Post

Advice from an old farmer:

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Auditobook Giveaway - On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Reminder: I'm giving away TWO audiobooks of ON THE ROAD TO MR. MINEO'S.

Just leave your name and email in blog comments or email to me barbaraoconnor at mac dot com.

Drawing is October 1.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Things I Love Thursday

A million trillion years ago, before my husband and I were even friends, we attended a "Yankee swap" kind of thing at an office Christmas party.

I ended up with his "gift" - an unfinished argyle sock.

I love it.

(But, um, where do you even find something like that?)


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech


I loved this book so much. Here's why: It is...
  • Sweet
  • Kind
  • Warm
  • Interesting
  • Heartfelt
  • Unique
  • Lovely
  • Sad
  • Happy

Here's what you should notice when you read it - because Creech is a master and we can all learn from a master, right?

  • Third-person omniscient point of view (seamlessly done)
  • Somebody made a rule that children's books shouldn't have adults as main characters. Somebody (aka Sharon Creech) proves that brilliant writers can break rules any ole dang time they want to. So there. (*fist bump, Sharon*)
  • The setting is timeless. Other than a truck, there is nothing to ground us in time. Could be 1940. Could be 2013. Who cares? Nobody.
  • Every word counts.
  • The main characters of John and Marta are brilliantly developed. Notice their lovely dialogue.
  • Ms. Creech has proven, once again, that she is the master of setting up a story QUICKLY. (Like, um, first paragraph.)
  • Creech is not afraid to make a young reader worry, fret and feel sad. And, come on, who doesn't love a good bout of worrying, fretting, and feeling sad every now and then? What can we learn from this? Don't be a wimpy writer. (At least, that's what I learned.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Audiobook Giveaway: On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Hey, y'all!

I'm giving away two, not ONE but TWO, audiobooks of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Just leave your name and email address in the comments section or send to me at barbaraoconnor at mac dot com.

I'll be drawing the winners on October 1.

Give it a shot.

What have you got to lose?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Things I Love Thursday

There are so many interesting things to see....

....on a little ole walk with the dogs.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

X Marks the Spot (Part 3)

 Okay, y'all, we've talked about the catalyst of a
story: Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

So now I pick up where we left off.

The catalyst might also be situational; that is, a situation is presented

that grounds the reader in the story and reveals what the story is about. 

Sometimes the author chooses to ground the reader in character and setting before getting into the action. 

In A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park, the catalyst doesn’t come until the second chapter. 

The main character is Tree-ear, a poor orphan boy who lives under a bridge with Crane-man. Park uses the first chapter to set up the story: the main characters, the setting, the time-period, the backstory. 

But the reader doesn’t yet know what the story is about. 

By Chapter Two, we have learned about Tree-ear’s fascination with potters, and, in particular, with Min, the most brilliant potter in the village. 

When Tree-ear accidentally damages one of Min’s belongings on page 18, Tree-ear asks the potter, “Could I not work for you as payment?” 
Now the reader is beginning to figure out what the story is about. 

On the next page, Min answers, “Yes, all right.” 

We are finished with backstory; we are finished with the setup. 

The action of the story is set in motion. 

Whether your catalyst is a specific action (an inciting incident), a piece of information revealed, or a situation, it should come as early in the story as possible.

Repeat after me: The catalyst should come as early in the story as possible.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

7 Opinions

7 Opinions on September 7 about Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

  1. This is the best book I've read in a long, long time.
  2. This book should have been marketed as YA.
  3. I hope this becomes a crossover book because I am certain teens and adults will love it.
  4. Too mature for Newbery (but certainly worthy). *ducks behind umbrella to fend off rotten tomatoes hurled my way* (see note below)
  5. Brilliant writing. 
  6. You should read it.
  7. You should read it.
    Note: I don't think the subject matter is too mature for Newbery. I think the overall tone and the writing are too mature. Just my opinion.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Progress Report

What I started with:

Um, nothing


What I have now:

Light at the end of the tunnel

A Pathetic Excuse for a Blog Post

Advice from an old farmer:

Words that soak into your ears are whispered... not yelled.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

X Marks the Spot (Part 2)

Okay, picking up where we left off in our
discussion about the catalyst of a story:


One of the most critical parts of the setup of a story is the catalyst

The catalyst has two important roles:
1. It starts the action of the story.
2. It defines what the story is about.

Besides action, the catalyst might also be informational, that is, the character learns a piece of information that sets the story into motion. 

A great example of this is Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah, Plain and Tall
Papa leaned back in the chair. “I’ve placed an advertisement in the newspapers. For help.” 

“You mean a housekeeper?” I asked, surprised.

Caleb and I looked at each other and burst out laughing, remembering Hilly, our old housekeeper. She was round and slow and shuffling. She snored in a high whistle at night, like a teakettle, and let the fire go out. 

“No,” said Papa slowly. “Not a housekeeper.” He paused. “A wife.” 

We are six pages into the story. 

The action has started with information.

Another example of an informational catalyst can be found in Judy Blume’s Superfudge:

Life was going along okay when my mother and father dropped the news. Bam! Just like that.

“We have something to wonderful to tell you, Peter,” Mom said before dinner.

A paragraph and a half later:

“We’re going to have a baby,” Mom said.


The story has started and is about a boy who is about to get a new brother or sister. Information.

Okay, some of y'all are dozing again.

So I'll save the next part of catalyst, i.e., situational, for next time. 

But before you go, repeat after me:


Class dismissed.