Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dear Barbara O'Connor

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

For my school summer project, I read How to Steal a Dog. The book was interesting and gloomy. 

It was a nice book the way you made it doomed in the beginning then in the end you made a joyful story.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

I realize that it is rather presumptuous of me to disagree with Mark Twain.

But Mark Twain once said: If you find an adjective, kill it.

I agree that there are some adjectives that deserve a quick and painful death:

1. Adjectives that can be replaced with action.

Kill those guys.

Think action, action, action (which translates to, um, verbs).

Here's an example (albeit, a rather lame one): instead of describing the sidewalk as being icy and slippery - have the character slipping and sliding and falling.

2. Adjectives that can be replaced with showing.

Kill those guys, too.

For example, instead of saying he had a messy bedroom, for pete's sake, just show the darn room - you know, with the bed unmade and the pizza box on the floor and the clothes all over the chair and etc. etc etc.

So where do I disagree with Mr. Twain?

I think that adjectives that are part of the showing process and that are specific...

....and that aid in the job of visualization (i.e., help the reader see the image clearly and specifically)....

...deserve to live.

Do not kill them.

Here's an excerpt from How to Steal a Dog. Imagine this scene without adjectives:

The house smelled damp and moldy. The floor was littered with leaves and corns. In the front room, a lumpy couch stood underneath the plywood-covered window....Stacks of yellowing newspapers were piled in one corner. Two empty cans of pork and beans sat on a rusty wood stove. I followed Mama into the kitchen. The cracked linoleum floor was sticky and made squeaky noises as we walked across it. I wrinkled my nose and peered into the sink. Twigs and dirt that had fallen through a hole in the ceiling floated in a puddle of dark brown water.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

I love kids!

I was in the library at a school last year that had a display of art by the kindergarten students. Each child wrote something that he/she was good at.

This one was my favorite.

Translation = I am good at readin'!

(Don't you LOVE that face?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Another handy revision technique is to use highlighters. (I work on hard copy but you can use the highlight feature of your word processing program.)

Like the focused read-through discussed last week, try reading the entire manuscript with only one element in mind.

But this time, use a highlighter each and every time you find one of the following:
  • Interior monologue (Too much? Slows pacing.)
  • Dialogue tags (Overused?)
  • Dialogue beats (Have you used the same ones too often?)
  • Words you know you tend to overuse
  • Any emotions mentioned (e.g., Sarah felt sad. John was surprised. Amanda was furious.)
  • All -ly adverbs (Can you replace with stronger verbs?)

Obviously, you will need to use a different color for each item.

This will give you an immediate visual image and give your revision FOCUS.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Star for Mr. Mineo!

A starred review from School Library Journal for
On the Road to Mr. Mineo's!

Gr 3-6Nestled in the scenic South Carolina countryside is a quiet town called Meadville. Summers are ordinary, but wonderful, filled with bike rides, swimming lessons, and the antics of imaginative children. Stella is eager for adventure and longs for a pet to be her constant companion. She spends her days with her best friend, Gerald, on the roof of his garage conjuring up “good ideas” that usually bring some type of misfortune on him. One typical day, an unexpected visitor arrives–a one-legged pigeon that sets Stella on a mission to catch it and claim it as her own. However, she is not the only person eager to catch this fickle rogue. There are many others, equally as determined to snare the elusive bird. This heartwarming tale of a town coming together in an unexpected way will delight readers. Children will eagerly follow the twists and turns in this story of friendship and loneliness, giving and receiving. O’Connor sets the stage beautifully from the very beginning, painting the small town in brilliant colors with her descriptive imagery. Older elementary students will easily relate to the nuances of the relationships between older and younger children as well as the angst of sibling rivalry. The theme of everyone working together to achieve a common goal is strong, and the ending is touching and satisfying.

Dear Barbara O'Connor

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

You were very nice for talking to our class. I never got bored the whole time. You are full of good stories.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

I read through the entire manuscript looking for only one element to revise.

Some examples:
  • Focus on consistency of point of view (This is a biggie. It's VERY easy to jump out of point of view and you might miss it if you aren't totally focused on that particular element of the writing.)
  • Focus on unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. (Eliminate anything that doesn't advance the story, reveal character or enhance setting. Don't be word drunk, as Donald Murray calls it.)
  • Watch out for overused words. We all have our darlings to kill. Mine happen to be: now, then, and every now and then. (And remember to use the features of your word processing program - like SEARCH. If you think you may be overusing a word, search for it.)
  • Watch for sentences, paragraphs, scenes or even characters that repeat or serve the same purpose. (Resist the urge to repeat yourself - whether it's words or ideas.)
During this stage of revision, don't try to read for meaning or story structure. That's a whole different ball of wax. Just focus on whatever element you're looking for.

Monday, October 15, 2012

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's - Reviews


Some reviews of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

From Horn Book:
"With total authorial control, O'Connor brings it all together, first creating a quiet, satisfying adventure and then an apt conclusion for peaceful, laid back Meadville. Here it is the subtlety of character and setting, rather than action, that rules the roost."  --Betty Carter

 From Kirkus:
 O'Connor weaves the fabric of her tale from each of these separate threads, moving back and forth among points of view, sympathetic to nearly all (except Levi and company). As in The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis (2009), she condenses long summer days down into their essence, quiet but humming with an undercurrent of childhood energy

From Publishers Weekly:
O'Connor's understated third-person narration moves languidly among the children (and some adults) in town - including Mr. Mineo, the homing pigeon's actual owner - in a story that beautifully captures the feel of a small Southern town and its residents.

From Book Page:
"...a gem of a story...Barbara O'Connor's gift in storytelling is her restraint. Holding back allows the reader to fill in a bit, making the story more personal. Her talents make On the Road to Mr. Mineo's an unforgettable trip."  --Robin Smith

And some blog and other reviews:


Friday, October 12, 2012

Reader reviews

I'm delighted that I've been getting such nice reader reviews for On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Just this morning I heard from this little cowboy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Interior monologue is a portion of the manuscript wherein the reader enters the character's head and hears her thoughts. (Did I just use the word "wherein"?)

Interior monologue is a handy dandy tool.

Here are my rules for interior monologue:
  • Use it to disclose information that would be difficult to disclose with dialogue.
  • Use it to develop character: show the character's traits and/or emotions
  • Don't overuse it. During revision, look for long portions of interior monologue and cut, cut, cut.
  • Use it to limit the use of speaker (or thought) attributions such as she thought or he wondered. For instance, try converting a sentence with a speaker [thought] attribution to a question. Instead of, "He wondered why he always ended up lying" try: Why did he always end up lying? You don't even need to add "he wondered" if you are 100% inside the character's head. The reader will get it.
And remember: Resist the urge to repeat. If you've put that thought into your character's head once - or twice - don't give in to the urge to overdo it.

Monday, October 8, 2012


I was going through some old photos yesterday and came across this one.

Grace Lin's lovely Where the Mountain Meets the Moon had just come out - and Ruby was a baby, too! Awwww.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

Pigeon sugar cookies!

To celebrate the publication of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Thank you, Angela!

Monday, October 1, 2012

You go, girl!

At a school last year, there was a display in the library for The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. The students had made origami boats and put messages inside.

Here is my favorite: