Friday, March 30, 2012

A little toot

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester has been nominated for the Virginia Young Readers Award 2012-2013

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

Advanced reader copies of  

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's!

The back cover reads:

"An intricate Chinese puzzle box of a book." --Kirby Larson, author of the Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky

Stella wants a dog, but her parents won't let her have one. So when she spots a one-legged pigeon on the top of her best friend Gerald's garage, she decides it's the next best thing and convinces Gerald to help her try to catch it. 

But too bad for Stella and Gerald, because they're not the only ones who want that pigeon. Stella's brother Levi and his scabby-kneed, germ-infested friends saw it flying around town, too, and Levi says finders keepers.

And Mutt Raynard, the town liar, told the truth for once, and now he needs to catch the pigeon to prove it.

It seems like all of Meadville, South Carolina, are caught up in the bird chase--but what they don't know is that the pigeon already has a home way across town.

Barbara O'Connor has delivered another ingeniously crafted story full of Southern charm, kid-sized adventures, and quirky, unforgettable characters.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Battle of the Kids' Books

The battle is heating up!

On to Round 3 tomorrow....

Who will win?

Between Shades of Gray or Chime?

Drawing from Memory or Life: An Exploded Diagram?

Such an honor

At the Georgia Children's Literature Conference I just attended, a group of students from Freedom to Grow UNschool (ages 6-12) presented a program called If You Give a Kid a Book by Barbara O'Connor!

They discussed their experiences studying my books, shared insights they gained from the books and suggestions for teachers interested in pursuing an author study in their classrooms. 

How cool is THAT!?

Here are some of their projects and activities:

I had Skyped with the students prior to the conference, but then I got to meet them in person. 

Here are some words I would use to describe them: smart, friendly, polite, funny, fun, enthusiastic, personable, and adorable.

Some of the students with teacher, Lora Smothers

More students

Thank you to the students and faculty of Freedom to Grow UNschool for that wonderful honor.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Children's novels are a lot like scripts:
  1. They are relatively short.
  2. They need to reveal the story very early on.
  3. They need to be tight and active.
  4. They must be well-paced.
So I find studying scriptwriting, particularly with regard to structure, to be very useful.

When looking at a manuscript as a whole, you must be able to identify four key elements:
  1. Setup
  2. Development
  3. Climax
  4. Resolution

I think the most critical element in a middle grade novel is the setup.

The longer you take to start the story, the more you risk losing the reader.

The setup should reveal:
  1. Whose story it is
  2. Where the story takes place
  3. A sense of the style or tone of the story
  4. What the story is about
Number 4 (what the story is about) is, in my opinion, the most important part of the setup. In a 150-page middle grade novel, the reader shouldn't have to read 20 or 30 pages into the story to know what the heck the story is about.

According to scriptwriting formulas, there are two important parts of the setup:
  1. The catalyst
  2. The central question
Next Writing Tip Tuesday = Catalyst

Recycled from October 2, 2007

Monday, March 26, 2012

Glory Be, it's free!

Want a chance to win a free copy of Glory Be
  by Augusta Scattergood?

Want to read a great interview?

Of course, you do!

Thanks to Kimberley Griffiths Little, you can.

Georgia Children's Literature Conference

 I had the great pleasure of speaking at the 43rd Annual Georgia Children's Literature Conference in Athens, Georgia, this past weekend.

Nothing is more fun for a children's author than to be surrounded by others who share the same passion: children's literature.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, what better way to share my experience there than through pictures?
It was great to arrive at the beautiful University of Georgia in Athens.

Some of the members of the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI were kind enough to host a wonderful dinner for me when I arrived in Athens. Lots of fun discussion about writing for children.

Author Donny Bailey Seagraves (right) arranged the dinner and was a terrific hostess.

The next morning I took a peek into the room where I would be speaking. Note to self: Don't do that.

With Jody Feldman, the winner of the Georgia Children's Book Award for her terrific book, The Gollywhopper Games
With Meghan McCarthy, winner of the Georgia Children's Picture Book Award for her adorable book, Aliens Are Coming
With Carol Boston Weatherford, the author of many amazing books for young readers, including Moses and Becoming Billy Holliday
With illustrator, Mike Wimmer, whose books include Flight and All the Places to Love
We signed and signed.

I even signed a copy of How to Steal a Dog that had been enjoyed by a dog.

We signed some more.

What a great time!
With the amazing Alyssa Hesselroth, conference coordinator. Thank you, Alyssa (and Tyler) for taking such good care of me and getting me to the airport on time.

And what would that conference have been without Jaye Thiel??!! Jaye, you are da bomb!

 Special thanks to Alyssa Hesselroth, Jaye Thiel, and Joel Taxel for making this such a wonderful experience.

P.S. More great pics coming thanks to the amazing students of Freedom to Grow UNschool

Friday, March 23, 2012

Share Our Books

The uber-talented Sara Pennypacker, author of the fabulous Clementine books, came up with a brilliant idea called:

Here's how it works:

At Share Our Books you'll find a list of author-donated books suitable for elementary school community reads, which are available free of charge for periods of six weeks. In addition to the books, each participating author provides a welcoming introductory video and a list of trivia questions. When the books arrive, the school distributes them and implements the read. All we ask is that when the read comes to an end, the books be repackaged and shipped to the next community.

I'm proud to be part of this great project, along with Kate DiCamillo, Uma Krishnaswami, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Sara Pennypacker.

Children's authors and their publishers have teamed up to help spread the love of reading.

So go ahead. 

Plan a Community Reads or School-wide Reads event.

Request some books.

Start reading.

Then spread the love. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Battle of the Kids' Books

We're now heading into Round 2 of School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books.

The battle heats up starting tomorrow!

Who will move on to Round 3?

Amelia Lost or Between Shades of Gray?

Chime or Daughter of Smoke and Bone?

Drawing from Memory or Inside Out & Back Again?

Life: An Exploded Diagram or [I'm headed to the airport and it's too early to find out. You'll have to look it up here. Sorry.]

Things I Love Thursday

I love going down to Athens, Georgia, to speak at the 43rd Annual Conference on Children's Literature.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

I still close my eyes and go home. I can always draw on that.

--Dolly Parton

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rhythm revisited

Kids in schools often ask me why the pigeon in On the Road to Mr. Mineo's only has one leg.

The honest answer?

I needed something for the rhythm.

One-legged pigeon had the right rhythm.


Writing Tip Tuesday

Remember that Gloria Estefan song, The Rhythm is Gonna Get You?

[This video takes a couple of seconds to start...patience....]


She makes me want to be a hot, Cuban chick.

But, um, I guess that's not gonna happen.


Rhythm of writing is important to me.

I know when the rhythm is off.

I know when something is needed to make the rhythm better.

I almost NEVER leave blanks in drafts - you know, typing in [INSERT SOMETHING HERE LATER].

I hate doing that.

But sometimes, I just have to.

I know something is needed and I just can't come up with the perfect thing but I need to get on with the writing.

And often, that something has to do with rhythm.

For instance, in The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, there is a scene where the main character and his friends are looking for something beside a railroad track.

Here's what I wrote:

They found a bicycle wheel with broken spokes.
They found a bullet-riddled stop sign.

They found the bent-up frame of an aluminum lawn chair.

They found a mildewed, mud-covered sofa cushion.

They found a grocery cart with two missing wheels.

They found cinder blocks and broken bottles and ____.

I knew that the last sentence needed three things to make the rhythm right.

But I just couldn't think of the third thing.... I left a blank.

Which is what made me think about rhythm in writing.

(By the way, I did later fill in that blank with rusty cans.)

But now that I look at that, I'm thinking I have too many sentences - I should delete one - or maybe even two...but, dang, I like all those things.

I hate murdering my darlings.


Here's another example.

I spent quite a while on the following paragraph because, once again, I knew I needed three sentences (after the first one), each starting with an -ing verb:

Maybe he should be swimming freely around Graham Pond. Gliding gracefully through the water. Floating among the rotting oak leaves that had settled on the surface. Sunning lazily on the moss-covered logs along the edges.

I also knew that the word logs needed an adjective.

It was just a rhythm thing.

So here's my point: Pay attention to the rhythm of your writing. Some writing voices/styles have more rhythm than others - but no matter what your voice is, there is some sort of rhythm in there.

Maybe it's the balance of short and long sentences.

Maybe it's the length of paragraphs or even chapters.

Maybe it's the word choice.

Maybe it's all of the above.

Write with an ear to your own personal rhythm and learn to recognize when it is "off."

The rhythm is gonna get you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Drum roll, please...Round 1, Match 5

Let me assure you, this was one tough job. 

Allan Say vs Uma Krishnaswami

Both books were wonderful...

..and quite different.

But it was fun to examine books so closely and to analyze their parts and their wholes.

It was an honor to have been asked to participate in this event.

I've learned a lot about the process of critical analysis - not only by being a judge but from the other commentators and reader comments. 


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring has sprung!

Ruby is back in her favorite spot.


Week 2 of the Battle

Drawing from Memory or The Grand Plan to Fix Everything?
(And the judge for this one? Um, little ole ME!)

 Heart and Soul or Inside Out & Back Again?

Life: An Exploded Diagram or A Monster Calls?

Okay for Now or Wonderstruck?

Friday, March 16, 2012

This book is blowing me away

The Brixen Witch by Stacy DeKeyser

I am the world's slowest reader.

Not finished with this yet.

But two words:

Holy Cow!

Two more words:

Loving it!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

This old owl cookie jar I bought in a Buffalo antique store a long, long time ago.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Look what I got!

Double Dog Dare

The upcoming middle grade novel by the uber talented and super funny

Coming in April from Philomel Books

I can't wait to jump into this one.

AND, Lisa will be joining me here at Greetings from Nowhere during her blog tour in April.