Thursday, May 31, 2012

When the Butterflies Came

Guess what?

My dear friend, the super talented Kimberley Griffiths Little (author of The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets), has a new book coming out with Scholastic in April 2013.


Check out the cover!!!

Coming from Scholastic April 2013

To celebrate this happy occasion, Kimberley is giving away NINE books. NINE!

Click here right this minute to find out how.

Things I Love Thursday

This weather vane tribute to Sherman in On the Road to Mr. Mineo's (and yes, I know the W is upside down. ??)


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hot Shot Words and Phrases

I was at a school recently where the students had read and analyzed my books for elements like theme, purpose, characters, etc.

They also noted what they called, "Hot Shot Words and Phrases" from the books. 

Here are some of the ones they noted:

the pearly gates of heaven
a tough nut to crack
a little tornado of excitement
say your prayers and kiss the earth good-bye
chicken hair

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Once your story has reached its climax, the party is over.

It's time to go home.

But you need to tidy things up before you go.

That's where the resolution comes in.

The resolution is another word for the ending of the story.

The resolution is the part of the story that comes after the climax.

Don't, I repeat - DON'T - drag the resolution on too long or you risk losing the reader. And what a pity it would be to lose the reader at this point in the story!!

Ask yourself the following questions about the resolution of your story:

  1. Is everything that was foreshadowed paid off? Any dangling threads? Anything left unresolved?
  2. Is everything that's paid off foreshadowed?
  3. Is the central question answered or the problem solved?
  4. Has the main character grown or changed?
It's critical to nail the ending and to make it satisfying.

Does your ending do justice to the story?

Next week, I'm going to tell you a story about how my editor saved an ending.

Recycled from 12/11/07

Monday, May 28, 2012

Winning Bookmarks

I love these bookmarks that were the winners of a contest at Hamlin Elementary School in Rochester, MI

Reading Leads to Small Adventures by Jaden Sun
Dogs Read, Too! by Ashley Adiwidjaja (I like "How to Steal a Bone" and "How to Get Jerky")

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dear Barbara O'Connor

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

Thank you very much for visiting our school. 
I loved your poodle pin. It was very bling bling.
You are very funny.
You seem like a skilled dancer.
Thank you for visiting our school and shaking my hand.

Your Reader Forever,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Stories are more interesting when they don't proceed in a straight line from Point A to Point Z.

They are much more interesting when they veer off course from time to time.

These off-course veerings (is that a word?) are known in script-writing as turning points.

Turning points help keep the momentum of the story up and add interest.

turning point might:
  • Turn the action or the focus in a new direction
  • Raise the central question or problem again
  • Be a critical action on the part of the main character, or
  • Be when the character makes an important decision or comes to a critical realization
An example from my book, Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia, is when Harlem walks out of the spelling bee.

An example from How to Steal a Dog is when Georgina and her family arrive at the abandoned house and find that it has been boarded up. Another turning point occurs when Georgina goes back to the old house to feed Willy and he is gone.

So, surprise the reader once in a while. Throw in a turning point to shift the action into a new direction.

Recycled from 11/27/07

Monday, May 21, 2012

Martha has arrived!

Picked up the new addition to the family!

Here's the bus!

Martha on the right. (Ruby on the left.)

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Look what the fabulous Greg Call drew to go inside On the Road to Mr. Mineo's?

This is Sherman flying over Meadville.

Look for it October 2012 from FSG/Frances Foster

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Share Our Books

There are only a few slots left in the 2012-2013 school year for the Share Our Books program. (But plenty for the following year.)

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.

P.S. This program encourages other authors to come on board.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Coming October 2012
Copyediting is the one stage in the publishing process that always annoys fascinates me. How do those people (copyeditors) DO it? They find the most amazing things.

For instance, there's a scene in On the Road to Mr. Mineo's in which an old car is breaking down. 

On one page, there is the following:
Edsel turned the key.
Whirrrrrrr clunk clunk

On the next page:
He turned the key one more time.
Whirrrrrrrr clunk clunk

The copyeditor actually caught the fact that the second Whirrrrrrrr had an extra "r."

Then, on page 29, there is the following:
And something had been making holes in the dry red dirt under the old pig trough.

But on page 119 (that's, um, 90 pages later!):
And out by the Ropers' barn, the little brown dog sat in the rain beside the empty pigsty and howled.

The suggestion was to change to old pig trough for consistency.

Okay, now I'm tired of copyediting. I'm gonna go check Facebook.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

I love this rattan furniture from the 20's.

 We bought it from the original owner about 27 years ago.

 The cushions are super heavy and have springs.

Under the slipcovers is the fabric it was reupholstered with in 1947.

Sofa on the screen porch

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writing that paints a picture

One of the most satisfying parts of visiting schools is seeing artwork done by students in connection with my books.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the following for The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Okay, so you've set your story up, giving the reader some backstory, revealed the central question, and nailed a catalyst (inciting incident) to get the story going. 

Then you've moved the story along, scene by scene, each scene revolving around the central question. You've tossed in a few turning points to keep the pace and tension up. (All these discussed earlier...)

Now you're there....

at the climax.

I only have three significant things to say about the climax:

  1. It should answer the central question or solve the problem raised in the setup.
  2. It should happen just before the resolution.
  3. Once you reach the climax, get the heck out of the story.
That last rule is so important, I'm going to repeat it:

Once you reach the climax, get the heck out of the story.


You're done.


Close the book and go home.

Do not linger, dawdle, or loiter.

The reader doesn't want to hear from you anymore.

Got it?

Nothing will ruin the ending of your story more than continuing on longer than you need to -

- and once you have reached the climax, the only thing that's needed is the resolution, which I'll discuss next week.

P.S. To give you an example: In Moonpie and Ivy, the climax of the story is when Pearl's mother returns. From that point on, the story moves very quickly - almost racing to the end. But I knew that the climax created an emotional impact that would have been diffused or totally lost if I had gone on much longer after that. I knew I had to GET OUT OF THAT STORY. So they got in the car and drove away. The End. No loitering for me.

Recycled from 12/4/2007

Friday, May 11, 2012

Save me a hushpuppy

Headed down South for a family reunion.


Sweet tea.

Boiled peanuts.


And the best people on earth, y'all.

Winding Oak

I love working with Winding Oak for all of my marketing needs (brochures, website, bookmarks, name it).

These are the same folks that bring the children's lit world the fantastic Children's Literature Network.

They are passionate about children's literature and understand the marketing needs of authors and illustrators.

Check out these great bookmarks and postcards they just did for me.

Photo credit: Leslie Davis Guccione

Then hop on over and tell 'em what you need (and tell 'em I said hi).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

My bookcases!

Lots of books and things that are special to me, including Workglove Willy, Tooley Graham (thank you, Grier Jewell), eggshell trophy (thank you, Gucci), clock made by son, photo of agent, Smoky Mountain thermometer

Books, bird nests, photo of critique group, a couple of, ahem, awards

More books. Painting done by my son as a small child (which says "Help save the trees")

My books on top. On top left is an insulator like the one on the cover of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's. On the right is my Judge Judy gavel (gift from my family).

My obsessive manual disorder at its best. (An iPhone manual? I know, I know....)

Some childhood books, some old biography research books, Leslie Davis Guccione books

More manuals and How to Steal a Dog in Japanese

Foreign and audio editions of my books

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Painting of How to Steal a Dog Cover

Check this out!

A PAINTING done by Jane McDuffee, a parent of students at Summer Street Elementary School in Lynnfield, Massachusetts!

It will be framed (signed) and hung in their school library along with drawings and paintings of books by other authors who have visited the school. 

Isn't it amazing!!??

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


R.I.P. Maurice Sendak

Writing Tip Tuesday

In scriptwriting, the term development refers to the part of the story between the set-up and the climax.

The development:
  • Is made up of scenes that advance the story until you get to the climax, but not in a straight line or at the same pace (more on that later)
  • Reveals more about the characters
  • Usually contains more backstory
  • Consists of action that revolves around the central question or problem
  • Consists of interconnected scenes (not episodic)
  • Should stay focused on the story line.
In scripts, individual scenes should start at the latest point possible.

The mother of all rules = Don't slow the pace with unnecessary STUFF.

The mother of all rules #2 = Don't dawdle in the scene. Get in and get out.

Recycled from 11/20/07

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Authors in April: Day 5

Baldwin Elementary

Motels for Greetings from Nowhere

Don't be Fickle; Stay at the Pickle! (Thank you, Isabelle)

I think I've stayed here before.

Fourth graders designed submarines

Designed by one of my greeters

Another one of my greeters drew this.

And another greeter drew this one.

(left to right) Davon, Megan, Isabelle, me, Jakson (front), Bennett, and library media specialist, Mr. Morris (back)

University Hills Elementary

The fifth graders designed hotels

The fourth graders made great frogs! (The pics turned out too dark to see but I looked at every one of them. Thank you, 4th graders!)

Hampton Elementary

Amazing little boats with great questions tucked inside


(left to right) Media specialist Jennifer Bachman, me, Terry Hetrick, Amy Schuster

My wonderful driver for the day (left) Lisa Wattai