Friday, February 29, 2008


Check out this blog from "one happy, healthy bookworm who sure loves to read."

She's twelve-years-old! Pretty amazing....

New England book event

Mark your calendars for this terrific book event:

Belmont Children's Picture Book Festival March 29, 2:00-4:00 p.m. First Church in Belmont, 404 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA

Six local children's authors and illustrators will share their latest picture books with the community. Come meet the authors, hear the stories behind their stories, and enjoy a variety of performances and activities. Fun for the whole family!

Authors are:

Melissa Stewart tells me that a documentary will be made of the event. Pretty cool publicity!

Free and open to the public

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Last chance

Tomorrow (Feb 29) is the deadline for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing.

Win a signed copy!

I'm such a trendsetter

Geez, it's looks like there's all kinds of dog-stealing going on!

The O'Connor Oscars again

Remember that kid who made that great video for How to Steal a Dog for his school project?

He got an A+!

Here's what he wrote to me:

"As I said before, I loved the book. Originally, I just got it from the library, but I just bought it earlier this week. By the way, I got an A+. Thanks for writing such a good book!"

For your viewing pleasure, his video [note: the sound takes a couple of seconds to kick in]:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Georgina trading card

Well, this is pretty cool!

A librarian from Texas came up with a great idea: for kids in a book club to create a trading card for a character from the book they are reading.

This is one she made for Georgina in How to Steal a Dog.

New FSG address

As of March 3, Farrar, Straus & Giroux will be located at

18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

Same general phone number (212.741.6900)

Moved out of that wonderful, funky building at Union Square. Sniff...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Greetings from France

This is fabuloso author Kimberley Little's entry for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing:

Greetings from Inida

Here's the entry for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing for author Annette Gulati. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is one of her favorite places.

Deadline is Feb. 29!

Greetings from Thailand

Here's the entry for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing for writer, teacher and lover of children's literature, Marcie Atkins. She grew up in Thailand.

Writing Tip Tuesday

Writing for kids is different than writing for adults.

Sure, much of it is the same - those "rules" of writing, like show, don't tell, resist the urge to explain, etc.

But writing for children has its own unique challenges.

I've often compared writing for children to writing scripts.

But it's also much like writing short stories.

I recently found a quote that puts into that into words perfectly:

From Off the Page, quoted by author Walter Mosley:

And so, when writing a short story [or children's book], you have to know everything behind it - everything that led up to there, everything about those characters. But you don't have the leisure to talk about it at length. You only see that very upper tip, as with an island compared to the mountain that lies underneath it.

My point?

It's imperative that you know the background of your story and your characters.

But you don't need to - in fact, you probably shouldn't - write about it.

It should be "invisibly present" - like a rippling undercurrent beneath the still waters.

How you accomplish that is a matter of personal taste. Some writers do exercises like interviewing their characters or making lists of the characters' favorite foods and hobbies and what's in their backpacks.

But me?

I just think a lot.

So by the time I sit down to write, I know my characters inside and out.

I know what happened the day before the story started.

But I don't write about it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Problem solved

Here's where I spent my weekend:

My husband wanted me to "smile for the camera", but believe me, I was in no smiling mood. My laptop is a Mac, which I love and adore. My family computer is a Gateway PC, which I hate and abhor.

My internet connection went down Saturday. (Although if I took my laptop into the bathroom, I could pick up my neighbor's wireless router.)

I was on the phone with tech support a gazillion hours. I crawled on the floor, in the dust, under the desk.

And then....

I gave up.

Problem solved!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Greetings from Paris

Here's the postcard entry for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing from author/illustrator Jennifer Thermes (who creates the most awesome and beautiful maps you ever saw):

Greetings from Paris

To enter the drawing for a signed copy of Greetings from Nowhere, just email me a postcard: barbaraoconnor AT mac DOT com. Deadline: Feb. 29

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Greetings from Iowa

Jill is having a book give-away, too - for her brand new picture book, To the Big Top. Check it out on her blog.

There's still time to send me a postcard at barbaraoconnor AT mac DOT com.

Greetings from Maggie Valley

Author Kerry Madden entered the Greetings from Nowhere book drawing by sending these two great postcards of her beloved Maggie Valley, North Carolina (the setting for her fabulous trilogy of books. The latest, Jessie's Mountain, is hot off the press and already getting rave reviews.)

Greetings from Maggie Valley, North Carolina

(Popcorn Sutton's storefront in Maggie Valley)

Deadline for the drawing is Feb. 29. Just send me a postcard pic to barbaraoconnor AT mac DOT com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Greetings from Hawaii

Here's Jama Rattigan's entry for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing:

Greetings from Hawaii!

There's still time to e-mail me a postcard (barbaraoconnor AT mac DOT com) - deadline for the drawing for a signed copy of Greetings from Nowhere is Feb. 29.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

White space.

You need it.

You want it.

You love it.

What is white space, you ask?

White space is white space.


White space is areas of a manuscipt with no words.

Books for young readers need white space.

Areas with no white space often indicate the following problems:
  • Long sections of narrative
  • Long sections of interior monologue
  • Paragraphs that are too long
  • Scenes that go on for too long
All of the above can be problems because they are likely to slow pace (and bore young readers).

Here's a nifty exercise:
Hold your whole manuscript and use your thumb to literally flip through it.
Pay attention to the white space.
But more importantly, pay attention to the areas without white space.
Take a look at those areas.

Maybe you need to add more white space.


Cut some narrative or interior monologue.
Revise to shorten paragraphs.
Delete unneeded or repetitious scenes.
Add dialogue.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Greetings from Anywhere book drawing

The miracle that is Google

I knew I wasn't crazy.

I knew I'd read a book about a woman who writes love letters to Nicholas Cage.

I asked y'all for help. (See the P.S. in this post.)

You failed me.

But Google came thru.

I Googled "a book about a cafe and a woman who writes to Nicholas Cage" - and it popped right up!


And - it's a pretty good book.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Horn Book newsletter

Greetings from Anywhere

I've gotten some cool postcards for the Greetings from Nowhere drawing.

Wanna play?

Wanna win a signed copy?

Here's all you have to do:

Email me or post on my blog a photo or link to a photo of a postcard - with a subject heading of Greetings from ______ [fill in the blank].

The postcard can be from your hometown, your favorite place, your dream place, your nightmare place, a fictional place....whatever.

Deadline: February 29

I'll be posting some postcards as they come in.

From Fifth Grade Teacher Extraordinaire: Megan Germano

Dear Nicholas Cage

Mr. Cage: I have a feeling that mean ole Kathleen Turner is telling a big fat fib.

I mean, you, stealing a dog!?

It can't be true.

I read your response: I have never been arrested for anything in my life, nor have I stolen a dog.

I believe you.

But, um, just in case you are thinking of stealing a dog, I'm sending you a copy of How to Steal a Dog.

It might give you some good tips.

Sincerely yours,
Barbara O'Connor

P.S. to all blog-readers: This is giving me a big ole case of deja vu. I read a book not long ago with a character (Irish?) who had a crush on Nicholas Cage and wrote him letters. She lived beside (over?) a diner. Now it's driving me nuts that I can't think of the name of it. Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Interview series

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith is hosting the SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series, which launched today with an interview of Tracey Adams of Adams Literary in the U.S.

Be sure to check back at Cynsations over the next few weeks for 32 sequential question-and-answer interviews with agents, editors, art directors, publishers, authors, illustrators, and other publishing types about the international youth publishing scene.

The series is offered by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

Awards and Honors from FSG

All I want is candy and a hug... that so much to ask?

In honor of Valentine's Day, here is a poem I wrote when I was 10 years old:

The Story of Gregory Grasshopper

Once upon a time in a far off hole
Sat Gregory Grasshopper, eating from a bowl.
He had a pretty little maiden
All silken and laiden
With gold around her wings, her wings,
With gold around her wings.

Now his pretty little maiden was a pretty little bug
Who lived in a hole by a pond.
Gregory asked for her hand
Which was white as the sand
But couldn't get any respond [sic], respond [sic]
But couldn't get any respond [sic].

He asked her more than twice
And he even asked her thrice!
But this is what she said, she said,
But this is what she said.
"You never give me candy.
You never hug me tight.
And we never go a flyin'
When the sun is shining bright, so bright,
When the sun is shining bright.

Poor old Gregory, he was so sad.
If only he could marry and then he'd be glad.
He'd have to buy her candy
And he'd have to hug her tight.
And he'd have to take her flying
When the sun was shining bright, so bright,
When the sun was shining bright.

Then he rushed to the store.
He wouldn't waste a minute or more.
And he bought some candy,
Real nice and dandy
And rushed up to her door, her door,
And rushed up to her door.

When she opened it wide
He stood by her side
And hugged her oh so tight.
He gave her the candy and then side by side
They flew in sun so bright, so bright.
They flew in the sun so bright.

And after a while
She said with a smile,
"Now I'll marry you, only you.
Now I'll marry you."

Valentine made for my parents

P.S. I dug these things up while looking for a photo for Kerry Madden's book give-away contest. Go check it out.

Cybil Awards

Congratulations to the Cybil Award winners!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yakkity yak

Here is the ending of a 5th grader's biography of her 76-year-old grandmother:

Some of Doris's best qualities are her patience, her consideration of others, her kindness, and most of all she is loving (she is also very pretty!)

Doris’ bad habit is talking on the telephone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

I love recurring story devices - something that is used repeatedly throughout the story.

These can serve some or all of the following purposes:
  • Help tie the story together
  • Help develop character
  • Show the inner thoughts of the character
  • Add to the overall style or theme
  • Give cohesiveness to the story
  • Help move the story along
  • Give the reader something to anticipate

I've written eight books and I've used a recurring story device in five of them!

Moonpie and Ivy:
The main character writes postcards to her mother (who has abandoned her). I ended every other chapter with the postcard. I've had teachers tell me that when they read that book to their students, the kids loved the postcards. They looked forward to them.

The postcards helped the main character express her feelings, which changed and evolved as the story unfolded. Some examples:
Dear Mama: I hate you. Love, Pearl Dear Mama: Ivy asked me to stay here and be her daughter and I said yes. Goodbye. Love, Pearl

Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia
The characters were studying for a spelling bee by using the dictionary. I used letters of the alphabet throughout the book. For example, "By the time we got to 'L'..."

This was a great device to help move the story along and helped the reader keep track of where we are in the story as they studied for the spelling bee.

Taking Care of Moses
The main character draws pictures at the end of every other chapter.

These helped show the character's feelings.

How to Steal a Dog
The main character keeps a journal that starts out as a "how-to" manual but turns into an expression of her feelings about what she has done. This served to show the evolution of her guilt over her actions and her need to do the right thing.

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis [WIP]
The main character's grandmother teaches him a new word each week. He recalls the vocabulary words throughout the story and uses them as they apply to a particular scene. This serves as a thread throughout and helps develop the character.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Poor little Bird

In all the excitement of Greetings from Nowhere coming out this spring, I'm afraid I've sadly neglected my little Bird.

She's the main character in Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia - which will be released in paperback this spring. Sorry, Bird!

She's had a good long run in hardcover - four years and going strong (19 state award lists) - so it's fun to finally see her in paperback.

Here I am with my giant Bird, made for me by author Jacqueline Davies:

See how big she is!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Greetings from Anywhere

I've been inspired by all the author bloggers out there who have had contests or drawings to give away a copy of a new book.

So - I'm having a Greetings from Anywhere event to give away a copy of Greetings from Nowhere!

Here's all you have to do:

  • Email me or post on my blog a photo or link to a photo of a postcard - with a subject heading of Greetings from ______ [fill in the blank].
  • The postcard can be from your hometown, your favorite place, your dream place, your nightmare place, a fictional place....whatever.
  • Deadline: February 29

All entrants will go into a pot for a drawing.

Winner will receive an autographed copy of Greetings from Nowhere.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A morning in the life of me

4:40 a.m. - Alarm goes off.

I know...I know....but I like to have plenty of time to shower, makeup, dress, make bed, feed dogs, feed cat, empty dishwasher, check email, have coffee, etc.

Make sure I have my schedule:

GPS set:

Directions printed out for backup plan in case I lose satellite connection (hey, it's happened, folks)

Okay, here's where my obsessive organization/scheduling kicks in...this is the same sheet of directions I've used for this school the last two years. I've written on the bottom the time I leave the house and the time I arrive. Now, before you slap your forehead, hear me out: this comes in very handy when you're trying to figure out how much time to allow. If you've ever driven in Boston traffic, you'll understand - I think...or....maybe not.

I arrive, um, a little early. But, hey, I've beat the traffic and can now relax in my car with the newspaper, etc.

Cellphone? check
Glasses? check
Breakfast? check

Plenty of time to read the paper:
Then some light reading (don't forget my OMD):

Got some Nintendo for a backup plan:

And the crossword puzzle (I cannot be idle):

My car is fully equipped. Got the obligatory pen and paper that all writers must have:

And My Lil Reminder for quick recording of brilliant ideas or reminder to buy toilet paper:

Umbrella, of course:

Which I needed today:

And the item that all owners of golden retrievers need (Hey, you should see my winter emergency snow kit!):
And now, it has just dawned on me that I am sitting in the parking lot of an elementary school at 7:30 in the morning taking pictures.

Me: Oh, hello, Officer!

Officer: Step out of the car with your hands up, lady.

Valentine's Day

Perfect for the Writer or Book-Lover Valentine in your life.

Thanks to BB Blog.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oh happy day

Now I love the UPS guy more than the mailman:

And - author Jill Esbaum received her author copies on the same day! It must have been National-FSG-New-Books-Delivery Day!

Fame and Glory in the real world

Major high five to the third graders at Wadsworth Elementary School in Palm Coast, Florida!!

They recently took part in a school spelling bee, inspired by reading Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia.

AND - the prize was a trip to Disney World, just like in the book!

I mean, how cool is that!?

Here's what the media specialist, Marilee Palot, said about the event:

Finally, I asked the winning team what Bird’s two goals were in life. One boy responded she wanted to be famous and go to Disney World. I told him they were famous because they won and they were going to Disney World. You should have heard the shout of excitement. It was so cool. Our PTO funded one adult and one child ticket for each of the 1st place winners. All the participants received a gift certificate to the book fair coming up in March.

Mrs. Palot and Ms. Crawford with the winning team.

The winning team with their teacher, Mrs. Thompson

The winners receiving their prize: a trip to Disney World!

The second place winners

The third place winners

Congratulations to all the kids and teachers at Wadsworth Elementary. I wish I could have been there for this exciting event!

Can you spell: G-O-O-D J-O-B?