Thursday, May 29, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I love this answer from songwriter David Byrne when asked about working on a daily basis:

Are you a writer who will work on songs on a daily basis, regardless of whether you’re feeling inspired?

Yes. I still think you have to wait for the inspiration, but unless you’re there, waiting at the bus stop, you ain’t gonna get on the bus. If you’re doing other things all day, a song ain’t gonna get on the bus.

[So get on up there to the bus stop, y'all.]


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Meaning of Maggie

I am officially in love with this book.

Hysterically funny? Check

Fabulous you-gotta-love-her main character? Check

Deals with a serious issue head on? Check

Deals with a serious issue (multiple sclerosis) head on while making you laugh on every page? Check

Debut novel that wows? Check

Can't wait for more from Megan Jean Sovern (who also happens to be super cute)?  Double check

It's a wrap!

My last school visit of the year was a special one.

I spoke to 4th and 5th graders at the Mather School in Dorchester, MA. (It's the first tax-supported public elementary school in the U.S.)

All of the students had read The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.

We had some great discussions about the book: their favorite parts, the character they liked best and why, any connections they had, etc.

Students showing drawings of their favorite scene

More drawings of favorite scenes


A student making a video for The Foundation for Children's Books

 Special thanks to The Foundation for Children's Books for making this visit possible.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I love summer!

My school visit year is officially over.

I've spoken to 8,456 students. (Give or take a few).

I've chatted with 2,344 amazing teachers and librarians. (Give or take a few.) 

I've looked at 12,344 fabulous pieces of student artwork based on my books. (Give or take a few.)

I've spent 735 hours sitting in traffic. (Give or take a few.)

I've flown 12,456 miles. (Give or take a few.)

I've waited behind 345 school buses. (Give or take a few.)

I've signed 10,458 books, 345 tiny scraps of paper, 45 napkins and 3 arm casts.

I've eaten bagels in my car, cheese crackers in hotel rooms, sushi in restaurants, potluck dinners in school libraries and lasagna in cafeterias.

But now that summer is here, I'm going to stop talking about writing....

.....and write!

So my blogs posts will be fewer.

Picture me here:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I love this thank you note!

I gave some of the foreign editions of my books to a school with a large number of ELL students (English Language Learners). The ELL specialist thanked me with these fantastic notes from the students, written in Chinese, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, German, Hebrew and Icelandic. And I love the diversity of the children in the drawings. Perfect for the new We Need Diverse Books campaign.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How to Make a Friend in One Easy Lesson

A million, trillion years ago (okay, okay, 9 years ago), I received the following letter:

Dear Ms. O'Connor [that just kills me],

I just finished Taking Care of Moses and, after also reading Moonpie and Ivy and Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia, I had to write a fan letter! 

I love the immediacy of your writing and the Southern settings and sensibilities of the stories that enhance rather than overshadow the situations your characters find themselves in.

Thank you for caring so much about writing good books for kids.

Kirby Larson

I had no idea who Kirby Larson was.

But I was, of course, touched by this letter. [Side note: a handwritten letter....not an email....big difference]

I put her info into my contact list on my computer and in the "notes" section I wrote: Writer who wrote me a nice fan letter.

Fast forward two years: Kirby Larson won a freaking Newbery honor for Hattie Big Sky.

I loved that book so much.

Now Kirby was one of my writing idols.

The following year, I like to died (as we say down South) when I saw that she named me as one of her "literary crushes" in this interview online.

I was floored.

There I was with all those other amazing authors. (And what a dinner party that would be!)

I confess that I clicked on the link to my name because I couldn't believe it was really me.


Call me mushy, but that was sort of a turning point for me with regard to how I viewed my own writing career.

I saw myself through the eyes of someone whom I admired and respected. 

I will be forever grateful for that.

Over the next few years, Kirby and I stayed in touch via email.

Finally, in 2010, we met in real life at a conference in Orlando.

She was horrified by my Cafe Francais addiction but agreed to remain friends.

We hugged and gushed and chatted like old friends.

From that point on, Kirby has been my go-to gal in my writing world. 

If I snivel and gripe via email, she picks up the phone and calls me.

If she knows I'm struggling with a writing issue, she picks up the phone and calls me.

When I've hit some bumps in the road, she picks up the phone and calls me.

When I got a new puppy, she sent puppy gifts.

She sends heartfelt, hand-written notes of encouragement when least expected and sorely needed.

This past November, we presented together at NCTE in Boston with our mutual idol and friend, Karen Cushman.

I call Kirby The Great Connector

She is forever connecting writers to teachers to librarians to writers to teachers, etc. etc.

So, what's the One Easy Lesson?

Do what Kirby does: Write. Call. Connect. (And send puppy gifts)

P.S. I still have that note about Kirby being "the writer who wrote me a nice fan letter" in my contacts info on my phone. 

What a long way she and I have come! 

Kirby? *fist bump*

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Two Things on Tuesday

Thing One

A great letter from a school librarian:

Dear Mrs. O'Connor:

Is there anything better than a classroom of second graders begging for The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester? Yes - two classrooms! 

[Thank you Mrs. Vonk, for taking the time to write that.)

Thing Two

I loved the fantastic secret of Owen Jester. My favorite character is Travis. Because he has a temper and I have a temper. I live in Georgia.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Missing CD

I'm looking for Libby Donovan, who won an audio version of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's back in October.

Today I found CD #3 in my car and I'm hoping it wasn't missing from what you received.

If so, please contact me.

If anybody reading this knows Libby, will you please give her a head's up?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I love Skype days.

With students at Gwin Oaks Elementary in Gwinnett, GA

More Gwin Oaks students. Thank you, Ms. Amolo!

A teacher at Fort Worth Academy showed me her dog, Plato, posing like the cover of How to Steal a Dog. Go, Plato!