Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And just to add to the awesomeness of Thursday

Not only is Mr. Schu revealing the trailer for

On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

on Thursday


He's giving away 


So, on Thursday.....click here

Trailer Reveal

Only two more days until....

the world premiere of the trailer for
On the Road to Mr. Mineo's


and some other cool stuff

Writing Tip Tuesday

Personal experience:

In Me and Rupert Goody, I drew a sketch of the inside of Uncle Beau's store. I needed to see where the old couch was, where the cash register was, where the door to his room was, etc.

In Taking Care of Moses, I drew a sketch of Randall's neighborhood - where his house was, where the church was, etc.

In How to Steal a Dog, I sketched the town - where the school was, where Carmella's house was, where the abandoned house was, etc.

In my upcoming novel, Greetings from Nowhere, I sketched the motel, numbering the rooms and marking which characters were in which rooms, where the swimming pool was, where the flagpole was, etc.

Those little sketches were a valuable tool to keeping the setting consistent and for helping me to remember to drop in some references to setting from time to time.

They helped me see if the movements of the characters were logical and if all the action "works."

They are also much appreciated by copyeditors (even if they snicker).

(Recycled from 2/5/08)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You like me! You really like me!

I'm proud as punch to announce that the multi-talented author Grier Jewell has nominated Greetings from Nowhere for a Versatile Blogger Award!!

Check this out:

You can see her blog post here.

Now, I was going to make some kind of really clever, cool response.

But, um....

 ....my box of really clever cool stuff is empty.

So I'm just gonna say:

Thank you!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

My Son

My son's 25th birthday is tomorrow.

How did THAT happen?

When he was about 3 or 4, he often sat at the kitchen table with me while I wrote.

I write longhand in a notebook.

He wrote longhand in a notebook.

Pages and pages and pages.

This one has an extra little index card attached to it.

This one has numbers along the side.

On this one, he traced his name that showed through from the opposite side.
 Afterwards, he stapled them all together to make a book.

Happy Birthday, Grady


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dear Barbara O'Connor

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

What I want to tell you is that you never start a sentence with the word "and." I don't want you to feel bad. Ok?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Share Our Books

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes invites authors to Share Our Books.

Writing Tip Tuesday

Two more tips about character:

  1. The character must be active in the story.
  2. The character should change or grow.

These are about as basic as you can get with a tip, but I have a couple more comments to make about each that are important to remember.

1. The character must be active in the story.

It's important that you don't get caught up in just letting the story happen to the character - letting the character just exist with the action swirling around them - letting the character just observe the story.

The character should be ACTIVE in propelling the story forward - in making the story happen - in altering the direction of the story.

Motto for the day:

The character should drive the story forward.


...the character's actions should revolve around the central question or problem.

Personal experience:

When I first had the seed of an idea for Moonpie and Ivy, the "story" was a girl who is abandoned by her mother. Oooo-kaaaay....and? The story is what? Um.....

I realized very early on that Pearl (main character) needed to be instrumental in driving the story forward. She had to DO something. The story couldn't just happen to her.

Thus was born: her relationship with Moonpie and her reaction to it, her acting out (stealing) to gain attention or to demean Moonpie, her quest to understanding the meaning of family, etc.

2. The character must change or grow.

This is Children's Writing 101. But sometimes writers forget that this change or growth should not be TOLD.....

....It should be SHOWN.

The reader should witness the change - not just be told about the change.

(Recycled from 1/29/08)

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Black Hole is Not a Hole

My friend and critique group partner, Carolyn DeCristofano, had a great signing event at Westwinds Bookshop for her amazing book, A Black Hole is Not a Hole (which has gotten FOUR starred reviews, by the way).

Carolyn has a way of making science easy and fun. The audience was eager to volunteer for her fun activities that helped explain black holes.

Carolyn (right) and I

Critique group pals (l to r) me, Carolyn, Wiesy MacMillan, Valerie Kerzner

Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury, MA

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Most children's writers know that it is important that the main character solve the problem or answer the central question....

...not another character....

...and especially, heaven forbid, not an ADULT.

And the problem should not be solved by happenstance.

The main character must actively DO something to solve the problem.


....it's easy to forget something else that is just as important:


The main character should have motivation to solve the problem.

Why is the character doing what he is doing?

AND - that motivation must be clear.

Lack of character motivation = a problem.

Personal experience:

TAKING CARE OF MOSES is about a boy who knows who left a baby on the steps of a church - but he keeps it a secret.

In the first draft, there was no motivation for Randall to keep the secret. He just wanted to keep it a secret. But the whole story revolves around that - so with no motivation, the story had no tension and just fell flat.

My writer's group (God bless 'em) kept asking me why Randall was keeping his secret.

Why, why, why?

And I kept stubbornly telling them, "Just because he wants to, okay?"

But, of course, I knew in my heart that it wasn't working.

Randall needed motivation.

In the revised (and final) draft, a new story element is introduced that provides motivation for Randall's secret. I won't bore you with the details (hey - you could read the book) - but it has to do with Queenie Avery having Alzheimer's and wandering at night and folks wanting to put her in a home, blah blah blah - but out of that came Randall's MOTIVATION.

After that, everything made sense and the story fell into place.

So - ask yourself, WHY does my main character want what she wants and/or do what she does?

(Recycled from 1/22/08)

Monday, July 16, 2012

A nice shout out for Owen Jester

Book Trailers for Dummies

I've been making book trailers for 4 years now.

Mine are simple.

No bells or whistles.

Just photos, music, and script.

My first one was Greetings from Nowhere:

Then The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis:

Then The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester:

I'm currently working on one for my October release of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's.

Here are the steps to a VERY basic book trailer:

1. Find photos. I use iStock Photo. They always have great photos that fit my story. I download the small size. Each photo costs a certain number of "credits." The credits needed for this trailer cost about $180.  I also sometimes use this site.

2. Find music. This is fun. You want the music, of course, to fit the tone of the book. I use Premium Beat because they have a good variety and are inexpensive. I bought the music for $30.

3. For this trailer, I also added one short video clip, purchased from iStock Photo for $20. 

4. Write the "script."

5. I use iMovie. Easy peasy. Literally drag the photos and music into the project. Add transitions, etc.

6. I spent 5432 hours tweaking it. 

7. Try to keep the total length of the trailer to no more than 2 minutes.

8. Publish to YouTube, Teacher Tube and/or Vimeo.

9. Spread the word online.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dear Barbara O'Connor

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

Well, let me just get to the point. I love your books! You are my favorite author! I could write about 5 more pages about your books but I should not because it would be too much for you to read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

From The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood:

Most good stories, even unconventional ones, contain these classic story elements:

Setup: Three bears go for a walk while their porridge cools.

Complication: Blonde perpetrator breaks in.

Rising Action: Perp chows down, breaks a chair, gets some shut-eye.

Meanwhile: Bears get home and survey the wreckage.

Climax: Discovered in Baby Bear's bed, perp screams and flees.

Denouement: Bears live happily ever after.

Yes, Gusty, this is one of the 145 writing books I own because of you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dear Barbara O'Connor

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

I just want to say that you are a wonderful gift from God.
I wish that you have a wonderful life.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Things I Love Thursday



She kind of cracks me up.
She's such a street dog.
Kind of like "Martha from the block."
My husband calls her "the thug."
Her trainer calls her "Shifty."
But I call her sweet Martha.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Good characters are critical to a good story.

I know this because I write character-driven stories (as opposed to plot-driven stories).

You don't want the reader to just see and hear the story.

You want the reader to feel the story.

In order for the reader to feel the story, she has to care about the characters.

You can have the best darn plot in the universe. But if the reader doesn't:
  • know
  • like
  • care about
the main character, then she won't care about the story.

So, how do you create, i.e. develop, a character?

Here are some of the best ways:
  • Dialogue: The character speaks in a way that matches her personality.
  • Interior monologue: The character's thoughts are revealed to the reader.
  • Imperfection: Neither completely good nor completely bad (makes for a more believable, and therefore, more realistic and likable, character)
  • Beats: I love beats!! I'll talk about them more on another Tuesday. But for now: beats are actions sprinkled throughout dialogue. Make those actions unique to that character to help develop character.
  • Show, don't tell: Show as much as possible about the character (their traits and feelings), rather than telling.
  • Relationships to other characters.
  • Treat them like humans: Humans disagree, forget, stammer, stop in the middle of sentences, change their minds, make mistakes, etc.

But, let the reader get to know your characters the way you get to know real people - a little at a time. You don't need to dump the whole character out right away.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I love kids

When I was visiting schools in Rochester, Michigan, for Authors in April, some of the schools asked students to prepare a little skit to introduce me.

Here is one of them:

Student #1: Rachel...Rachel...Rachel! Are you listening to me?

Student #2: Wait, what did you say, Maya? I didn't hear you. I can't stop reading this book. I read the first sentence and it literally pulled me right in.

Student #1: What book are you reading?

Student #2: Really? You don't know what book this is? It's Greetings from Nowhere, only written by the best author ever known. Do you know who that is?

Student #1: Ummm, I don't know. Is it Cynthia Rylant?

Student #2: No, silly! It's Barbara O'Connor.

Student #1: Do you mean the Barbara O'Connor who wrote my favorite book, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester?

Student #2: Yep. That's correct.

Student #1: You know she's here right now, don't you, Rachel?

Student #2: Really? You have to be kidding. Barbara O'Connor lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Student #1: Well, turn around.

Student #2: Am I hallucinating or is it really Barbara O'Connor?

Student #1: It's her Rachel!

Both students: Now, introducing the fantastic author of all these books, Barbara O'Connor

[Note: The students had read on my website that my favorite author is Cynthia Rylant. hahaha]