Monday, April 30, 2007

What value do I have?

I was spending the morning Googling my latest book (oh yeah, like you don't) and came across a pdf of a booklist published by the Grand Rapids Public Library. It was a list of children's books that teach values.

Me (to myself): Oh, cool! My book teaches a value! Who knew?

First value on list: Honesty

Me (looking for my book under Honesty): Nope, not honest.

Second value on list: Kindness and compassion

Me (looking for my book under Kindness and Compassion): Nope, not kind and compassionate.

Third value on list: Respect

Me (looking for my book under Respect): Nope, not respectful.

Fourth value on list: Tolerance

Me (looking for my book under Tolerance): Nope, not tolerant.

Fifth (and last) value on list: Patience

Me (looking for my book under Patience): There it is! Patient?

Who knew?

Note to Grand Rapids Public Library: I am flattered and honored to teach patience. :-) But, um, could you do something about that site of yours? It took 13.7 seconds to load. I mean, come one....I'm a busy gal...I've got stuff to do....I'm waiting, waiting, waiting..Sheesh! Can't you fix that site to load at something around 9 seconds.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Call me weird

Sometimes I leave perfectly good items somewhere unexpected - for strangers to find. Now, bear in mind that I could leave them at my local dump, which has a "swap" section. But what fun is that? I love the thought of someone coming upon something unexpected - and having one of those, "Hey, what's this?" moments.

For instance, I once left a little silver tooth fairy box in the parking lot of Target. It was small and round, with a red velvet lining and a little fairy engraved on the top. For the next two days, I had a great time imagining who found that little box. Was it a child? A grumpy old woman? A construction worker?

What had they thought when they found it? Did they know what it was? What did they do with it? Give it away? Throw it away? Hide it in their underwear drawer?

And where was it now?

So much better than writing prompts, don't you think?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Those creative fifth graders again

I'm moving along in the biography writing workshop I'm conducting with fifth graders. One of my favorite writing tools to stress is "show, don't tell." Listen to some of the befores and afters of the students' work that was a result of revision after discussing "show, don't tell" (I swear that these are actual examples):

Before: Jason loved baseball.
After: As soon as Jason got home from school, he dashed back to his room to grab his baseball mitt, then hurried to meet his friends in the vacant lot next door.

Before: Her favorite subject was history.
After: She especially loved hearing stories about the past and how places were discovered.

Before: His favorite subject was geography.
After: He loved it when the teacher whacked her pointer on the map, pointing out countries and rivers.

Before: John loved to go to the Cape every summer with his family.
After: John counted the days until his family would load the beach chairs and boogie boards into the car and head for the Cape.

And my personal favorite:
He hated doing chores, like vacuuming, washing dishes or raking.
After: He groaned when he had to vacuum. He whined when he had to wash dishes. He grumbled when he had to rake.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just in case

Well, if I run out of ideas, I can always get this, right? (Thanks to Mighty Goods) Hey, it contains writing prompts. (Oh, I forgot, I hate writing prompts.)

The evil that is marketing

There's been a discussion among my online writer friends recently about marketing. For the record, I hate it. Loathe it. Despise it. I just want to write. But I also know that if I want to have any success at all in this biz, I have to get out of my jammies and do SOMETHING to market my work.

With that said, I'm still convinced that (for me), the BEST thing I can do for my career is to continue to publish quality books on a regular basis. That's the best use of my time.

Still, I'm willing to crawl out from under my rock long enough to attempt marketing of some sort. I loved a recent blog article over at Shrinking Violet Promotions. My score was 11 Feels Comfortable; 5 Could Get Used To; 10 Uncomfortable; 2 Cold Day in Hell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fifth grade writers

I started day one of a four-day biography writing workshop with fifth graders yesterday. The kids interview someone (usually a parent or grandparent), then we spend the next few days converting facts into a creative nonfiction story.

I've been doing this workshop for over ten years and have a collection of student writing that is wonderful.

Check out these opening lines from past biographies (keep in mind - fifth graders here):

"Thwack jump 47. Thwack jump 48. Thwack jump 49. Sherry was a born jump roper. Ever since she was born, August 8, 1949, Sherry had been an active child."

"Stroke, stroke. Dab, dab. An artist was at work. A masterpiece was being painted. Sonia *** had a passion for art."

"Nice new asphalt and not a car in sight. Perfect for playing ball, bicycling and marching baby strollers up and down the street." [After we talked about showing setting]

And my personal favorite: "Patricia *** was born in the middle of March of 1957 and was the middle of five. She slept in the middle bunk, played in the middle of the street and loved the middle of summer."

I mean, come on! Pretty great, huh? That last one was written by a very macho, hockey-playing boy who told me he loved to write.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hazy ideas

Novelist and short story writer Bobbie Ann Mason said in an interview somewhere (on a little scrap of paper torn out of something in a stack of stuff in my office):

"I have always found it difficult to start writing with a definite idea about a character, or even a definite emotion. But if I start with a pond that is being drained because of a diesel fuel leak, and a cow named Hortense, and some blackbirds flying over, and a woman in the distance waving, then I might get somewhere."

I love that because I know exactly what she means. That's one of the most fun stages of writing - when you're right on the precipice of actually putting pen to paper, but that hazy idea is still swirling around and not quite ready to land.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hot Shoes of Children's Literature

In a comment in Fuse's Razzle Dazzle post, Fuse mentioned the possiblity of Hot Shoes of Children's Literature.

Okay, I'm just keepin' it real here. THESE are the shoes of a hardworking writer.

I guess it's sorta obvious that I wear them A LOT.

Another reminder of what a great gig this is - that I can go to work in my slippers, er, I mean, hot shoes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The devil is in the details

Speaking of copyediting (see post below), it's an interesting, sometimes frustrating, always important part of the process. The big picture stuff is done - the story is finally in place - and now it's time to pass the baton from editor to copyeditor - to put the final polish on the manuscript.

It never ceases to amaze me how I can read a manuscript 284 times and still miss things that seem so obvious when pointed out.

page 86: Willow looked down at Aggie's canvas sneakers. They were wet and muddy. One of them had a frayed hole in the side and Aggie's little toe poked out.

page 189: Then she put on her canvas sneakers with the holes in the side....

Copyeditor: So, which is it? One hole or more than one hole?

My thoughts: #@*%&

My words: Gee, good catch. Let me go back and fix that.

page 7: Then she moved on to pondering how she was going to fix that clogged drain in Room 4.

page 119: When Loretta's father finished fixing the clogged sink in Room 4...

Copyeditor: So, do you want to use "drain" or "sink"? They should probably be consistent.

My thoughts: #@*%&

My words: Gee, good catch. Let me go back and fix that.

How does she DO that? She is a genius.

It's those little, little details that put the final polish on. Lucky, lucky me to have such a fine polisher.

The devil is in the details.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The sound of writing

Sometimes, to avoid writing, I read about writing. I was recently reading, Nobles Book of Writing Blunders by William Nobles. He talks a lot about the sound of writing - that the reader "hears" the written word.

The rhythm of my writing is very important to me. I consider it critical to my writing voice. But sometimes, I have to fight a bit to keep the rhythm where I want it to be.

I just finished up (I hope) the final copyedits for my next book (Greetings from Nowhere - Spring 2008- thus, the name of this blog). Now - FSG has the best copyeditors on the planet. Bar none. The B-E-S-T. I drive them crazy with my "Southernisms." (They're from New York. I forgive them.)

They know their stuff. They miss nothing. They punctuate punctuate punctuate. But sometimes, I just don't WANT to punctuate. It ruins the rhythm of my writing.

For example, listen to the difference between:

1. Sometimes, when her father was sleeping on the couch, Willow would tiptoe down the hall to his bedroom that used to be Dorothy's bedroom, too.


2. Sometimes, when her father was sleeping on the couch, Willow would tiptoe down the hall to his bedroom, that used to be Dorothy's bedroom, too.

The difference, of course, lies in that one stinking little comma after the word "bedroom." The two are totally different to me. They sound different. They have a different "aura." (#1 is the one that is my rhythm and my voice. I need that sound - with no pause for the comma.)

Lucky for me, I also have copyeditors who listen to me and respect what I do and don't push their dang commas on me if I don't want them. Another one of the 1378 reasons why I love FSG.

A star is born

I've been waiting, waiting, waiting on School Library Journal's review of How to Steal a Dog. It finally came yesterday. I got a star! Woohoo!

"...the unfolding events will keep youngsters totally engaged....Though set inside a heavy topic, this novel's gentle storytelling carries a theme of love and emphasizes what is really right in the world."

Now I'm still waiting on the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - and I'll be done with the big guys. Phew!

Monday, April 16, 2007


That wasn't so bad now, was it?

I'm keeping my Live Journal alive for a while, but I'll be posting here from now on.

So, we can still be friends, right?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How to Steal a Dog reviews so far

“O’Connor blends her usual poignancy and insight in another tale set in a small North Carolina town….Speaking with at times heartbreaking honesty, this likable young narrator convincingly articulates her frustration, resentment and confusion as she comes to her decisions. O’Connor once again smoothly balances challenging themes with her heroine’s strength and sense of humor.”
--Publishers Weekly

“Georgina’s…how-to journal will have kids anticipating her misconceptions about the realities of theft and deception. A powerful portrayal from an innocently youthful perspective.”

“O’Connor knows how to spin a touching story, and reading this novel is its own reward.”
--Horn Book

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Waiting waiting waiting

One of the worst parts of this gig - waiting for reviews. My reviews used to come to me via fax - and to this day, the sound of the fax machine sends my heart a-thumpin'. Now they sneak up on me in my emailbox.

Even though How to Steal a Dog has gotten very nice reviews from most of the big guys, so far, it's still nerve-wracking waiting. I made it into the next issue of Horn Book, which pleases me a lot. (I heart kf). But I'm STILL waiting on School Library Journal and the Bulletin. I hate the waiting.....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I finally did it

I called the owner of the lost dog that inspired HOW TO STEAL A DOG.

I've waited a long time (two years? yikes) for two reasons. First, I wanted to be able to give her a copy of the book. But secondly, and the more cowardly reason, is that I was dreading stirring up sad-dog-stuff for her. I am SUCH a dog lover. I just can't bear to think about sad-dog-stuff. Also, I knew when I called her that she would have one of those heart-stopping moments when she would think that I was calling because I found him.

This is the sign that inspired the book.

So I called the number and a woman answered:
Woman: Hello?
Me: Are you the person who lost a dog named Willie? [I know, I know - but I HAD to say that to make sure I was talking to the right person, didn't I?]
Me [really really really quickly]: I haven't found him, but I wanted to tell you blah blah blah

So I told her about seeing her sign and the inspiration for the book and all. She seemed to be thrilled that I had called and excited about the book. Sadly, she never found her little dog. She told me losing Willie was the saddest thing that had ever happened to her. She said she had consulted two psychics and they both told her he was still alive. [waaah - this sad-dog-stuff is awful] Since then, she has adopted two shelter dogs. (I might add, also, that I first saw that sign in 2005. Willie had been missing since 2003!!)

So I sent her the book and she loved it and appreciated that I had contacted her. (Phew!) She sent me a thank you note with a dog on the front that said "Pooches Gracias."

Okay, I'm off to watch My Dog, Skip.