Friday, July 30, 2010

Isn't it ironic?

I'm still addicted to this game on my phone called Word Warp.

It's a word scramble game. (You have two minutes to find as many words as possible, but if you don't find the six-letter word, your score goes back to zero.)

My current high score is 19,110.

A very strange thing keeps occurring.

There is one word that I literally NEVER get.

Guess what it is.


I swear.

Here's an example from one of the last games I played:

The scrambled letters were DTEWTI

Here are the words I found:


The two words I did not get were:


Here's another one:

The scrambled letters were IPETID.

I got:

I did not get: EDIT and TEPID

I won't bore you with another example, but it happened again yesterday!

Isn't that ironic?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The shotgun over the mantel

There's an old scriptwriters' adage that goes something like this:

If you show a shotgun over the mantel in the first act, you better use it in the third.

In other words, don't set up expectations for the reader that you don't plan to meet.

Don't deliver promises you aren't going to keep.

In my current, painful, teeth-pulling work-in-progress, I have the line in the first chapter:

At the end of Waxhaw Road is a little brick house with a sofa on the front porch and an empty doghouse in the yard.

That empty doghouse served no other purpose than description.

I've seen lots of little brick houses with sofas on the front porch and empty doghouses in the yard in the little Southern towns of my youth.

But a few chapters later, I wrote:

Stella went home to sit in the empty doghouse in her yard.

At the time, that was just something she did because she was feeling sad.

But then, I began to have the nagging thought that I had put a shotgun over the mantel.

The empty doghouse.

Wouldn't the reader begin to think that there was some significance in the empty doghouse?

Whether or not that is true, that question served as a springboard for a story element that I hadn't thought of before and I decided to noodle around with it.

I love this part of the writing process.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kinda strange

I love vintage tablecloths. (I collect vintage state map tablecloths.)

While cruising the internet, I came across this:

Kinda strange.

But I think I like it.

Sharon's Vintage Fabrics.

Happy Birthday, Grady!

Happy birthday to the best son I could ever hope, funny, loving, responsible, hard-working, empathetic, generous, kind-hearted....

23 today!


From Bingo

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cleaning up my act

How to Steal a Dog will soon be out in Italian.

This particular publisher tries "to not refer to smoke and beer."

They changed:

The man who had been working on his car was sitting in a lawn chair smoking a cigarette.


The man who had been working on his car was sitting in a lawn chair drinking a soda.

They eliminated the line: Cigarette butts were scattered on the floor beneath it.

They substituted "beer bottles" with "bottles."

In addition, they wanted a few other changes:

They eliminated the word "idiot."

They eliminated the word "dern."

They changed "dern world" to "stupid world." [huh?]

They changed "I like to died when I saw Patsy" to "I like to sink when I saw Patsy." [huh?]

They prefer to eliminate all references to religion. Therefore they eliminated the bumper sticker "Honk if you love Jesus."

And last, they wanted to "change the following Mama's action because in our opinion it's not a good example for young readers""

Changed: "The bread we had in the milk crate in the trunk of the car had turned green with mold, and Mama tossed it out the window."

"...Mama threw it in the bin."

There ya go!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Many thanks to my online buddy, Susanne Drazic, for presenting me with the Versatile Blogger Award!

Here are 7 things about me:

  1. I have no sense of smell.
  2. My father used to do a magic trick that appeared as if he was poking a toothpick through his cheek.
  3. I once side-swiped a parked car on a motor scooter, took the side mirror off, and ended up sprawled in the middle of the road in front of my house.
  4. My grandfather grew peanuts and my grandmother always kept a pot of them boiling on the back of the stove.
  5. I watch every trash reality show there is, including Toddlers and Tiaras and Trading Spouses.
  6. My 8th grade Latin teacher chastised me for being too loquacious and I had to look it up in the dictionary.
  7. If I didn't read so many blogs, I would have three more novels coming out next year.
As for forwarding to 15 bloggers I admire, there are WAY too many, so I'm going to invite anyone who wants to play to share their 7 things.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So lovely

In a letter from a student:

When you were talking, some of my old story ideas that were thrown away or forgotten bloomed into my head fixed. There are news ones growing, too! Kind of like flowers, storys are, you have to plant them, water them and all ways work on them. Then if you have taken good care of them they will turn out to be beautiful and colorful!

And this lovely drawing with little words all around the edges:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I love kids

From a reader:

I just wish I could go to where you live so I can do the stuff that you got to do in the mud. It sounds like fun.

I love kids.

Nobody's there

Oh, how I love this!

Thanks to Kay Winters for this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

And the winner is....

Today was the drawing for a galley of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.

I put all the entries in a basket and asked Ruby to choose one:

She wasn't very interested, so I dumped them onto the floor:

Matty walked by. He wasn't interested, either.

Ah ha! I knew it! Ruby finally snatched one and tried to make a run for it:

Matty helped me capture her:

Give me that piece of paper!

And the winner is.....Mary Louise Sanchez!

Congrats to Mary Louise. I will email you.

And many thanks to all who participated. I wish I could have given you all one.

Galley Give-away

I'll post the winner of the drawing for the galley of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester later today.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Galley Give-away

Just a reminder:

Drawing for an advanced reader copy of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

July 19

Send an email to barbaraoconnor at mac dot com to be entered in the drawing (or leave a comment here with your email address).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kirby's No-No's

A great follow-up post by Kirby Larson - this one about things she doesn't like in novels.

What Makes a Good Novel?

I love this (from a blog post by Kirby Larson):

What Makes a Good Novel?
by Kirby Larson

  • A “real” character – someone with flaws
  • A reluctant or longing hero (think of India Opal Buloni; Jack in Sea of Trolls)
  • Quirky characters (think Broken for You; Alfred Kropp)
  • A strong voice – sassy, to steal a word from Patty Gauch
  • A sense of optimism and hope
  • Room for me to figure things out for myself
  • A sense of humor
  • Interesting, concrete details – like the knot untying thing in Maniac Magee, or the writing in the wet concrete in Mick Harte Was Here.
  • Snappy, lively dialogue that sounds like real people are talking
  • Books in which people are trying to figure out what it means to be a human being
  • Fresh metaphors and similes that don’t stop my reading but boost it along
  • A sense of adventure, at some level (I’m thinking of Charlotte Doyle, the girl pirate books, etc.)
  • A sense of mystery – either that there’s one to be solved or a story that celebrates the mystery of life
  • Writing that makes me think
  • Writing that explores what’s wrong and what’s right in the world on the page
  • A sense of sacrifice – the m.c. must give something up in order to gain his/her goal.
  • Conversational tone
  • While setting isn’t overly important, I do enjoy knowing the story is set in a specific time and place (Feed; Ida B; Each Little Bird)
  • It doesn’t have to be fast-paced or glitzy but it should show me something new – like Criss-Cross

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pulling teeth

Some writers won't talk about their works-in-progress.

I am not one of them.

It doesn't bother me a bit.

So - here's how my current work-in-progress is going:

Slow, slow, slow and painful.

I have a title:

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

I have characters I really like: Stella and Gerald

I have a pretty good setting: the roof of a garage in Kramer, South Carolina.

But, um, story?

I'm groping in the dark.

And yesterday a bad thing happened.

I've always considered myself pretty good at chapter endings.

They are uber important.

Today, I couldn't figure out how to end a chapter.

I have never ever done this before (i.e., moved on to the next chapter without a killer ending for the previous one)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


March 2010:

July 2010:

I'm already having withdrawals.

Help me.

(I'll give you an arc of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester if you send me a can of the OLD, original Cafe Francais - blue label. Warning: if I receive 245 cans, 244 of you won't get an arc. Heh)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Popeye and Elvis in paperback

Coming soon...The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis in paperback.

This is a preliminary sketch of the cover. The final one is slightly different. I love it. Thank you, Greg Call.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Just stuff....

I walk my dogs on a cranberry bog.

These are bee hives on the bog:

They are brought to the bog to pollinate the cranberry plants.

I've walked by bee hives like this 4,784 times.

I have never been stung.

Until last week.

The bees were wild! Some of them got in my hair, so, of course, I flailed around and one of them stung me.

On the finger.

It hurt.

A lot.

Other than that, I love those bogs.

Yesterday Ruby and I saw a horse again.

That girl riding the horse was on a cell phone. Sheesh.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Galley Give-away

It's time for a galley give-away.

Want an advanced reader copy of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester?

Just send an email to barbaraoconnor at mac dot com or leave a comment here with your email address.

Winner announced July 19.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Case of the Missing Apple Dapple Cake

I make this really good cake called Apple Dapple.

The last time I made it, I saved half and put it in the freezer.

Over the weekend, I took it out of the freezer.

I heated it up and gave my husband a piece of warm Apple Dapple Cake.

From there, my memory is a blank.

Him (the next day): Where's the Apple Dapple cake?


Him: Did you put it back in the freezer?


Him: I didn't see it in the refrigerator.

Me: *jumps out of chair and dashes to kitchen* I think I left it in the oven.

Me: *opens oven door* Hmmmm, not here.

I looked in cupboards and basement frig and microwave. I even looked in the garbage.

Him: What's that thing wrapped in foil in the frig?

Me: *takes a peek* ribs

Him: Then where is the cake?

Me: I have no idea. I think I'm losing my mind.

Next day, after much thinking, I decided to take another peek at that foil-wrapped thing in the frig.



But it DOES look a little like ribs, doesn't it?

Hey, Pool Girl.....

......Happy Birthday!!!!!

A Star from Kirkus!

The first review of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester is a star from Kirkus!

"The short, sad life of Tooley Graham was over," doesn't sound like a happy conclusion but is pitch perfect in this short, simple and endearing middle-grade novel that follows on the heels of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis (2009).

Owen Jester is focused on several things during his summer vacation: finding a way to keep his trapped "pet" bullfrog alive and happy, locating what fell off a train with a loud crash! one night and keeping annoying next-door neighbor Viola—who knows everything—out of their business as he schemes with his two best friends, Stumpy and Travis. The discovery of a sleek, red two-person submarine in the brush alongside the tracks changes everything. Can three young, girl-hating boys and a willing and very able—and tolerant--girl move a submarine to Graham Pond? If they manage that, will they ever be able to pilot it?

In the heat of a languid Georgia summer vacation, in the dreams of irrepressible youth, anything is possible. O'Connor has spun a lovely read that perfectly captures the schemes and plans of school-age kids in the long days of summer. (Fiction. 8-11)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Note to commenters

Blogger seems to be having a problem today regarding publishing comments to blog posts.

I am receiving them in my email, so know that I have read your comment.

I'm just having trouble getting the comment to post online.

Hopefully, a temporary glitch.

Devin: I use a Mac program called Scrivener.

We can do this

I found this post by Debbie Wiles utterly fascinating.

And, in some strange way, encouraging.

I mean, this is DEBORAH WILES, people! (But I like to call her Debbie because I want her to be my best friend and come to my birthday party.)

Fascinating point #1: She can scrap an entire draft without hurling herself into the middle of the interstate.

Fascinating point #2: She has sense enough to write down that thought that popped into her head.

Fascinating point #3: She is courageous enough to start writing a book with no idea where it is going.

Fascinating point #4: She is willing to share this amazing process with others.

Fascinating point #5: She's going to do it by Labor Day. She IS going to do it by Labor Day.

The encouraging part?

She gives me hope that maybe I can write a draft by Labor Day.

I can, right?

So, I'm sharing what I have - which isn't very much. But it will grow.

Those different colors, by the way, represent viewpoints. The yellow is OMNISCIENT. Eeeek!

At least, that's what I'm calling it. According to this, the first one is panoramic. ??


It's still kind of freaking me out and making me question every word I write on the paper.

But if Debbie can do it, I can do it.

Go, Debbie, go!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thank you Nashua readers!

I was presented with the Gate City Award for How to Steal a Dog.

This is an award voted on by the 3rd and 4th graders of Nashua, New Hampshire.

I am honored and flattered.

Thank you, Nashua readers!

(l to r) Liz Ullrich of Amherst School, me, Linda Vaughan of Birch Hill School

Here is the beautiful award (shaped like the Granite State of New Hampshire) on my shelf in my office, next to my cute little Willy dog.

Friday, July 2, 2010

ALA 2010 Part 4

Here are some of the authors I just stalked and didn't talk to (not because I didn't want to, but because they had very long lines. Heh)

Mo Willems:

Katherine Paterson:

Christopher Paul Curtis:


Brian Selznick:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

ALA 2010 Part 3

Saturday night Macmillan hosted a dinner for Lane Smith and me at a restaurant next to the house where Lincoln died. (I have no idea if that has any significance, but it's kind of cool.)

Here are Lane and I holding each other's books. We are both thinking: Geez, this book doesn't look that great to me, but I'll go along with this photo shoot.

Now we have read each other's books and we are both thinking: Wow, this book is amazing!!

Here is a group of librarians acting out Lane's amazing book (see note above), It's a Book:

(left to right) Caroline Parr, Sue McLeaf Nespecca, Barbara Brand

FSG Publisher Simon Boughton acted out the part of the pirate. It was highly entertaining.

Sunday it was time for my signing:

The FSG/Macmillan gang were terrific: