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Viewing Blog: Barbara O'Connor, Most Recent at Top
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The blog of Barbara O'Connor, author of children's books, including HOW TO STEAL A DOG (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Frances Foster Books) Ages 8-12
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1. Hey Danielle H


I want to send the arc of Audacity Jones Steals the Show to the first commenter on my previous post - Danielle H - but I have no way to contact. 

Will you email me thru my website?

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2. Audacity Jones Steals the Show



Just finished this beauty.

So much to love.

Audacity Jones Steals the Show by Kirby Larson

Two words: TOTAL PACKAGE

It has mystery and humor and adventure.

It has a cat and an elephant.

It has HOUDINI!!!


So many things to love about the writing.

I love how Kirby speaks to the reader so seamlessly, without pulling us out of the story. In fact, quite the opposite...she lets us in on the fun:

I know, dear reader, it causes you to shudder as it does me.

I love the absolute SEAMLESS incorporation of historical details:

Not a kid-leather boot nor starched pinafore to be seen in either direction.

Audie inhaled deeply of the automobile fumes, the horse dung, the frankfurter carts, the fishy aromas from the Hudson River. "Just smell all that life!" She turned in a complete circle, arms wide, opening herself to the wonders of Manhattan.

I adore the language, sometimes soft and lilting, sometimes just plain old sparkly:

It smelled of hay and apples and something else: The young thing reeked of sorrow.

A murmur wobbled its way through the crowd.

And Kirby has never been one to write down to young readers. She tosses in so many yummy words, like PERFIDY. 

So much to love about this one.

AND.....I'll send this ARC along to the first person to tell me so in the comments. 

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3. Love those North Carolina schools!



Today I got to speak to students from ELEVEN schools in Surry County, North Carolina.

What a great day!

Greetings from Nowhere is on the Battle of the Books list for North Carolina...so these schools were rocking it!!!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here ya go!

Thank you, Surry County Schools!

The Battle of the Books team at Rockford Elementary (Thank you for that great welcome sign!)

  


Rockford Elementary kids waiting for the presentation



Copeland Battle of the Books team

Dobson Battle of the Books team

Mountain Park Battle of the Books team

Rockford Battle of the Books team

(l to r) Tonya Fletcher, me, Sonia Dickerson. Thank you, ladies, for making this wonderful author visit possible.

Kids filing in to Franklin Elementary


Flat Rock Battle of the Books

White Plains Battle of the Books

Cedar Ridge Battle of the Books

Franklin Battle of the Books team

I didn't have a chance to visit the Andy Griffith Museum, but at least I got to drive on Andy Griffith Parkway
Getting ready to present at Pilot Mountain Elementary

At Pilot Mountain Elementary

Pilot Mountain Battle of the Books team

With Pilot Mountain media specialist Amy Harpe

Whenever I go away, I love coming home and seeing those beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains ahead of me.

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4. Creekside Elementary



Here are a few pics from my great visit to Creekside Elementary School in Winterville, North Carolina


The Battle of the Books team

 

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5. Thank you, Winterville, NC

Wow! An amazing school visit in Winterville, North Carolina.

Here are some of the highlights:

Thank you to Creekside Elementary for this great welcome sign in the library. (Note: There were lots of pics taken here but I don't have them. Will post if I get them. Great school, though. Trust me.)

A nice greeting for Kim Norman and I from Ridgewood.

 
Check out all the snazzy outfits at the Battle of the Books luncheon

Battle of the Books luncheon

Battle of the Books luncheon

Battle of the Book luncheon

Battle of the Books luncheon

(l to r) Kim Norman, Ryan Davis, me


The whole Battle of the Books gang

(l to r) Angie Britt Egerton, Kim Norman, me, Kris Davis


Had a blast with the awesome Kim Norman

Ridgewood kids filing in to hear my presentation



Me working the crowd


Me and my pal, Kim Norman

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6. Kate the Great and a Giveaway

Suzy Becker must be a ten-year-old girl disguised as a grown-up because she NAILS her adorable character Kate in her new book, Kate the Great: Winner Takes All.


Kirkus says: "A zippy little visit with a likable 10-year-old"

ZIPPY is the perfect word.

Reading this book gave me so many flashbacks and stirred up happy memories from my own childhood.

Like speaking ubbi dubbi. Anybody remember that? The kids on the TV show, Zoom, used to do it. 

Dubo yubou ububbi dububbi?

And the egg thing!

Someone breaks an imaginary egg on your head. Remember that?

From the book:

I sit on the edge of her other bed.  "I'll do the egg thing." After three imaginary eggs, I'm feeling very sleepy.

Warning!!

Do NOT read this book if you don't want to laugh because it is so dang funny.

You WILL laugh. 

A lot.

But the best, best, best parts of this book are the hysterical drawings and handwritten notes.

Here are some of my favorites:


Gene is the school bus driver






This book has kid-appeal written all over it.

Kate is definitely great. 

And so is Suzy Becker.

Because she's GIVING AWAY A COPY!!

Just leave a comment below by 10/27. (I'll also be asking for retweets on Twitter.)  

Kate the Great: Winner Takes All is the sequel to Kate the Great: Except When She's Not, published by Crown Books. Available in stores November 1. 

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7. Cover Reveal!! C.M. Surrisi's New Book!



 Look, y'all!!!!

The cover for Vampires on the Run





The second Quinnie Boyd Mystery is coming soon!
If you liked The Maypop Kidnapping (and who didn't?)
you'll love Vampires on the Run.
It's deliciously fun and just the right amount of spooky. 




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8. Rewards and Blessings


Some folks work hard all day and their only reward is a paycheck.

But writers of children's books are rewarded in many ways besides money. 

(And, um, there are children's writers all over the internet right now reading this and sputtering out their coffee and saying, "Money?" But, I digress...)

We approach a school with a large banner taped to the door that reads, "Welcome, Author!"

We walk down the hallways of that school and admire the students' artwork about our books taped to the walls.

We open a manila envelope and a pile of letters and drawings spills out, each one letting us know how much that student enjoyed our books.

We Skype with classrooms and book groups full of excited students and answer their questions about our books.

But sometimes, we get one of the finest rewards of all: a note letting us know how our book has directly affected a reader and given him or her a mirror to see themselves.

I recently received such a note about my new book, Wish.



In the story, the main character, Charlie, meets a boy who has, in her words, an "up-down" walk - a limp that often prompts his classmates to tease him in unkind ways.

Here is the note (with permission from the sender): 

Hi Barbara.

My daughter Sofie and I finished reading Wish last night.  We both loved it.  


That is no small thing as Sofie doesn't always love to read.  

She was first interested because of her love of How to Steal a Dog and because Wish also includes a dog.  

When reading, however, she was especially interested in Howard and his up down walk as she has cerebral palsy and her own kind of up down walk.  

Thank you for writing about a child she could relate to in a book with a girl and a dog.  It really matters to her.  

On a related note, she is curious about Howard. If there is anything you can share about why you included him, she would love to know.

All the best,
Patricia


Let me repeat one line:

Thank you for writing about a child she could relate to in a book with a girl and a dog.  It really matters to her. 

Let me repeat one more line:

It really matters to her. 

That line was not just a reward.

It was a blessing. 

It was a blessing and a reminder of the importance of writing books that serve as both windows that give readers a glimpse into the lives of others and mirrors that reflect and give value to a reader's own life experiences. 
 
Thank you, Patricia and Sofie, for that blessing.  

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9. Constance Lombardo is in the House and a Giveaway!


 Today I'm celebrating a book birthday!!

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America by Constance Lombardo


And Mr. Puffball himself stopped by to tell us that author/illustrator Constance Lombardo is here to tell us a bit about herself and her latest book.




 From the publisher:


In Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (Harper/Collins), Mr.
Puffball, El Gato and the gang take to the road in search of some
fantastic footage for their buddy film. Hop aboard this fast-paced travel adventure – It’s van-tastic! 

Our interview: 
 
What is it with you and cats?



Funny you should ask, Barbara. When I started writing, my books were about turtles and snails, two animals I can totally relate to. But my cat Myrtle kept giving me that penetrating ‘Why don’t you write about cats?’ look. So I did. Also, cats are furry, whiskered, and they have pointy ears!



Interesting! Next question: you have a knack for getting inside a cat’s head. Have you ever been a cat psychic?



Not exactly. I get my insights into the feline mind by watching, listening and belly-rubbing. My cats are Myrtle the Elder and Gandalf the Grey, the mischievous kitten. G.G. was the inspiration for Pickles, the adorable, but irritating kitten, who is in my new book, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America.



When did you start drawing?



My first drawing of Three Men in a Tub, done when I was only four years old, is the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, it has gone missing. (Have you seen it?) When I was about ten, my sister Rita did a drawing. Not to be outdone, I did my own drawing, and I haven’t stopped since. I used to draw people. Now cats. What’s next? Maybe I’ll draw one of those scary jumpy bugs my cats keep killing and leaving lying about. But probably not.

           

Tell me more about your latest book, please.



Sure thing! My illustrated middle grade novel, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America, is the second in the Puffball series. Mr. Puffball and his BFF El Gato film a buddy movie demo reel at American landmarks such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, the Coney Island Cyclone, and Paul Bunyan’s Onion Ring Ranch. Rosie is the director, and the rest of the gang is along for the ride. It’s a wild road trip adventure with lots of chase scenes, rodeo numbers, diner mishaps, and litter box stops. 


In writing and illustrating this book, what was the most challenging part?



I love to draw cats, people, donuts, and other round-ish things. Drawing cars, vans and road signs requires straight-ish lines. I did my best, and I’m very proud of my drawing of the funky road trip vehicle – a VW microbus. It has wheels and everything!


Is it true there’s a character in Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across Americanamed Benedict Cumbercat?



Yes! I’m a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan, and I love all things British. In my book, Benedict Cumbercat does some not very nice things, but in the end we understand his motivation. There’s even a visit from the Queen of England! I drew this character as a corgi, since evidently Queen Elizabeth II loves corgis. 

 What is one thing you’d like your readers to know about Mr. Puffball?



I’d like them to know that Mr. Puffball is a good-hearted, loyal, and fun cat with a big dream-to be a movie star! I think we should all dream big! My dream is to write and illustrate books that kids of all ages will love and that make them laugh. I think my dreams are coming true!! 




What’s the best part of being a published author?



The absolutely best part is getting fan mail!! (after my first book,Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars) It’s such a thrill to hear from kids who love Mr. Puffball! Some say they don’t usually like reading, so if I can get a kid into reading through my books – wow!! Some include drawings, which is wonderful. Either way, I just love hearing from my readers.

The second best part is going into my local bookstore or library and finding my book on the shelves. What an amazing feeling!  


What’s next?

I’m working on Mr. Puffball book three!! More adventures are on the way…

Thanks for stopping by, Constance.


To celebrate this new addition to the Mr. Puffball series, Constance is giving away a signed copy!
Just leave your email address in the comments by October 5.
 

 
Constance Lombardo enjoys drawing and writing about cats who
are famous and infamous. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, daughter, Myrtle the Good Cat and Gandalf the Grey the Mischievous Kitten.

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (HarperCollins) is on shelves today. Visit your local independent bookstore to get your copy.

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10. Be Light Like a Bird - A Book Birthday!



To celebrate the book birthday of the wonderful new middle grade

novel, Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder, I invited her to stop by and tell us where the seed for the came from.

It's always fun to hear how a seed grows and then blossoms into a book.

Here's what she said:
 
            When I visit schools students often ask where my ideas come from. So I'd like to share here the origin of a particular idea that I used in Be Light Like a Bird: a girl burying roadkill and a boy taking photos of animals killed on the road.


            Be Light Like a Bird is the emotional, realistic fiction story of 12-year old Wren, who is heart-broken after losing her father in an airplane crash. Wren's father always told her to be "light like a bird, not like a feather," - to control her own destiny, to make her own choices. But Wren is adrift after her father dies. Her mother acts distant and angry and takes her away from her home. Over the course of the story Wren has to heal, and when she finally learns the reason for her mother's behavior, she needs to learn to forgive.

Monika with her dog, Frank

            After her father's death, no body was found and her mother
doesn't even want to have a memorial service for her late husband. In developing Wren's character, I tried to put myself in Wren’s position and felt that her desperation about the loss of her father and her mother’s distant behavior needed an equally desperate outlet. She ends up burying roadkill. The idea for the roadkill came to me on my morning run in my North Carolina neighborhood, where on any given day one may find small animals dead on the road. I often wonder what it says about people’s relationship to animals that so many of them are killed in this way and then left dead and unattended on the asphalt. 

One of Monika's many beautiful gardens

            But then I also remembered that many years ago, a friend of mine, the talented photographer Jim Pojman, had shown me a series of black and white pictures that he had taken of roadkill. If you have the stomach for them you can see them here:

            Jim also had taken pictures of objects arranged in several rows of equal lengths, such as gummi bears, screws, buttons, dead flies, etc. From that memory I developed the idea to have Theo show Wren such images during one of their early meetings. He pulls out his binder of photos and shows her a picture of screws and then the photos of roadkill he had taken, which, of course, she doesn't want to see at that point, since she doesn't want to have anything in common with a nerd like Theo. 


            As you can see, often events, memories, and observations are stored for a long time in a writer's head and just as a new story develops they may connect and become a part of that story.

***
 Monika grew up in Germany and has lived and worked in international schools in Egypt, Chile, Oman and India. She is the author of Saraswati's Way, The Dog in the Wood and My Brother's Shadow. Before she moved to the US she was the elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Monika now lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and dog. If she doesn't write she reads, bakes or tends to her flower garden. Her latest novel for middle-grade readers is Be Light Like a Bird. Visit her at: www.monikaschroeder.com





 

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11. #TrueFriends and a Great Giveaway

Back in this blog post I told y'all about a writing retreat I went to a couple of years ago.

It was at the beautiful vacation home of Kirby Larson.


(l to r) Kirby Larson with Winston the Wonder Dog, Susan Hill Long, Augusta Scattergood, and me

The amazing result of that writing retreat is that ALL FOUR of the manuscripts that we worked on there were published this year!

 
So we decided to keep the Sisterhood united and work together to help our books wing their way into the world.

We have some #TrueFriends goodies for you!

Here are 4 quick videos from us, telling a bit about our books.


And...drum roll, please...a fantastic giveaway!!


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12. The Sisterhood

In June of 2014, Kirby Larson invited Augusta Scattergood, Susan Hill Long, and me to have a writing retreat at her beautiful vacation home in Washington state. We all jumped at the chance.





What a special time we had!

Here we are with Winston the Wonder Dog. (l to r): Kirby, Susan, Augusta and me


Writing all day.

Then critiquing (so important).

Then breaking to watch the sunset and drink a little wine.


And here's the coolest part:

All four of the manuscripts we were working on at that retreat were published this year!

What are the odds? Seriously.

Here they are: 





AND Augusta's book and my book are publishing on the SAME DAY (August 30).

What are the odds?

Here's the fun part: we call ourselves the Butterfly Sisters. Here's why (as I remember it....we might all have variations of the story).

In an early draft of WISH, I had a scene where the main character hurls some very harsh words at her friend. Harsh and sharp. I then wrote that she wished she could take those words back...scoop them up like butterflies in a net.

My brilliant peers pointed out to me that that metaphor didn't seem appropriate for gathering harsh, sharp words.

Dang it! They were right. But I loved that phrase so much I was determined to keep it. I just moved it to a more appropriate place.

So we had kind of a running joke about butterflies.

And all four books have some sort of reference to butterflies. (Go read the books and see if you can find it.)

So there you have it. 

AND...this year Kirby invited us to have another retreat. BUT...Delta Airlines dealt me a lousy hand and cancelled my flight. So I couldn't go!!!

But we got together to critique the best we could:


Long Live the Sisterhood!

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13. Love That Cow

Okay....could I love that cow any more?
I don't think so.
Do I adore the work of Sharon Creech?
Um, heck YEAH!

I love this book so dang much.






"...the smells and the heat and the noise were pouring in the windows and squeezing us from all sides."

*Sigh*

"It seemed they didn't want to waste friend effort on someone who was leaving town."

*Sigh again*

"The voice full of honey but the words...not."

*Big heaving sigh*

This book VIBRATES with action and sounds.....the WORDS:

Lurched
Ambled
Lumbered
Skittered
Lunged
Careened

Clambering
Zooming
Ogling
Screaming
Vibrating
Wailing
Bellowing

And then there is this:

"Sometimes an hour is a blink
A flash
A wink, a flicker
A dashing gallop
And sometimes
An hour stretches
Thuddingly
Second by second
An endless
Eternity
of drips"

THUDDINGLY?

Who even thinks up that word?

I really, really, really loved this book.

And so will you.

 


 

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14. Student Blurbs for WISH


I adore these blurbs for WISH from Patrick Allen's awesome 4th graders in Colorado.



"This is the best novel of the year!" --Kinsey 

"Soon it will have a New York Times best seller stamp on it!" --Norah

"I WISH it were out sooner!" --John

"Wishes might not come true, but reading this book made mine come true!" --Michael

"Great mix of comedy and emotion. This book makes wishes come true!" --Caleb/Hannah

"Now I know what to wish on." --Ben

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15. Shout Out to McDonald Green Elementary


Big thanks to Mrs. Weeks

 and all the great students at

McDonald Green Elementary School

 in Lancaster, SC.

I had a blast!








 

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16. I love HAMPDEN MEADOWS!



I could NOT be prouder of these amazing students at Hampden Meadows Elementary School in Barrington, Rhode Island!

Thank you to Ms. Mitchell and her creative students!!


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17. Another Hampden Meadows Shout-Out


I've visited Hampden Meadows Elementary School in Barrington, Rhode Island, for many years.

They are without a doubt one of the BEST schools for an author to visit.

The kids are so well prepared.

They've read almost all of my books.

They've made fantastic art projects and posters about the books.

They decorate the hallway.

And best of all, they are as excited to meet me as I am to meet them.

You can see some of my past visits HERE.

But now I've moved down to North Carolina - too far to visit.

So we did the next best thing, thanks to teacher Mrs. Mitchell and media specialist Melanie Roy.

We Skyped.

 

And once again, I was absolutely blown away by the time and effort the kids put into my books.

Check out these great projects.













 





 











 And one student made an amazing stop motion video that I will post when it's available on YouTube.

Thank you, Hampden Meadows!!!

 

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18. Cover Reveal for Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America



Drum roll, please......

Here

is

the

fantastic

cover 

to:




Isn't it the coolest?? 

Mr. Puffball, El Gato and the gang take to the road in search of some fantastic footage for their buddy film. 

Will Benedict Cumbercat sabotage their every move?

Will they meet an adorable yet irritating kitten named Pickles? (Hint: yes.) 

Will Rosie, as director-in-training, ever stop megaphoning ‘Cut!’?
 
Find out when you hop aboard this fast-paced travel adventure – 

It’s van-tastic!

This second book in the series, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins) by Constance Lombardo releases on September 27. 

So, run.....

don't walk...

to your local indie bookstore

on September 27.

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19. Year in a Minute 2015



And now for my SIXTH annual 

YEAR IN A MINUTE

2015

  


Year in a Minute 2015 from Barbara O'Connor on Vimeo.

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20. Cover Reveal for The Magic Mirror

I'm beyond excited to be the first to reveal the cover of an amazing middle grade novel coming your way in May.

The author is my friend and brilliant writer Susan Hill Long.

The book? 

The Magic Mirror:
Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel

Don't you just love that title?

Okay, drum roll, please.....

Ta da!!

 
 From the jacket flap:


Maggie is a girl of no account. The good folk of Lesser Dorste all look away, for she’s a foundling cursed with a crutch. She doesn’t even want to look at herself—till the day she’s given a magic mirror. And what she sees in the mirror sends her straightaway on a journey to the royal city.

Others, too, are making their way: A monk with a tragic history and a boy with an uncertain future. A princess with a dark secret and a lord with wicked ambitions. A mad- woman with a checkered past and a beggar with a air for the dramatic.

In this twisty-turny tale of mistaken identities, missed connections, and loves lost and found, these wanderers and more will meet Maggie on her journey to heal herself . . . and her kingdom.
 
Add this one to your list, y'all.
Trust me.

 

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21. A great North Carolina school day

I recently had the great pleasure of visiting Parkton Elementary School in Parkton, North Carolina, thanks to the wonderful Angie Tally of The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC.

Me with the amazing media specialist, Janice Gardner

Janice and I showing off the AMAZING cake made by Tara Bishop

These students made awesome projects for How to Steal a Dog (notebooks with the rules, like Georgina's). Thank you all for those!


And because a picture's worth a thousand words, I'll let the following pictures tell you about my great day.
 










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22. Shout Out to Kansas



Thanks to the sixth graders
from South Middle School
in Salina, Kansas

For hanging out with me today

 

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23. Cynthia Surrisi is in the House (and giving away a book!)

I'm excited to welcome fellow Asheville middle grade author, 


Cynthia Surrisi, who has stopped by to answer some questions about her terrific new middle grade novel: The Maypop Kidnapping, just published by Carolrhoda Books.






Don't you just love this cover?


From the publisher: In the coastal village of Maiden Rock, Maine, Quinnie Boyd's teacher has disappeared. Quinnie thinks it's a kidnapping case, but her mom, the town sheriff, just thinks the teacher has left town. Still, Quinnie's going to follow her instincts that something's wrong.

AND.....you can win a signed copy!

How?

Just leave your name and email address in the comments.

That's it!

Go ahead.

Do it! 

Winner will be drawn March 21.

But now....let's chat with Cynthia:

Why did you choose to write a mystery for your first book?

I have been a mystery reader since childhood. I read every mystery that was available to me, which included all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series. I had a friend in 4th grade (I've blocked out her name and you'll see why) who owned all of them, but she would only loan them to me one at a time and only for one overnight each. Mean, huh?

That meant I had to read them under the covers with a flashlight. In retrospect, it enhanced the spookiness of the stories and certainly kept my pulse racing. There was no question as to whether I would turn the next page. As a result, I was really tired a lot in 4th and 5th grade, but the rhythm of a mystery became central to my reading experience.

Do you find there is anything unique about writing a mystery?

Starting in 4th grade, I crafted my own series in spiral bound notebooks. It was called The Twins of Cherrystone Farm. Wow, were those two sisters meanies to each other, but they stuck together when it counted. They solved the mysteries of the stolen gym socks, scandalous unsigned notes, angry valentines, and tons of other middle grade drama of the time. They were filled with tons of spooky suspicions that never went anywhere. For good or ill, they are long lost.


Here's the budding author in kindergarten:



It wasn't until I got to my MFA program years later and had an advisor who was an experienced mystery writer that I learned that you don't write a mystery from the perspective of a reader. Meaning, you don't just start and lay down all kinds of fun and intriguing things with no clear idea of how you will tie them all together. It's too easy to plant then lose track of clues. Chekhov said it best: One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off. It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep.

So now, for me, mystery writing requires a very detailed plan. I have written four of them, and while I allow myself a lot of freedom in the actual story narrative, I plan out the mystery in a treatment. I write the backstory, then the opening, then the big reveal. This way I know where I'm going. And I keep track of the clues and red herrings in a chart. 

The blurb on the cover of your book says: The only thing that would make this book better is if it came with a Gusty Burger and a side order of lobster fries. I've never flown through a book so fast to find out whodunit.  

What exactly are Gusty Burgers and lobster fries, and is this a foodie book?  

Protagonist Quinnie Boyd's father owns Gusty's cafe. And yes, the cafe is central to the setting. In the book, everybody's eating and arguing over what they like and don't like. A teeny off-season town needs a little commerce. In this case, it's the lobster pound, the cafe and the real estate office.
A Gusty Burger is a burger on a toasted English muffin with onion and mustard. And don't try and add anything else to it or you'll be run out of Maiden Rock. Once someone asked for ketchup and Gusty shook his head and said, "Mister, I won't serve it to you that way."

The really special and delish dish at Gusty's are the Lobster Fries. These are crispy French fries served with a side of a melted butter, lemon and saffron sauce to dip them in. I'm leaving out the super secret ingredient. The locals love them and the summer people go nuts for them. Aside from that, Gusty serves lobster roll on a buttered split top bun (secret recipe), clam chowda, garlicky cole slaw, blueberry pies with those little Maine blueberries, and whoopie pie sliders. Oh, and every table gets a beat up wooden bowl of Cheese Nips.

What's the story on Moxie?

Don't get me started on Moxie! Well, okay. It's the first bottled soda in America and draws its flavor from gentian root. Originally, it was marketed as a cure-all and called Moxie Nerve Food. Moxie bottle wagons dispensed it at fairs and amusement parks all over the nation, but it really only caught on in New England, specifically Maine. 

The company's motto is "Live your life with Moxie." Who can't support that? I fall on the love-it side of the Moxie fence. Others, not so much. 

In the book, Quinnie's mom and teacher strongly disagree on the tastiness of the local beverage. 

Moxie
If you want to learn more about the history of this very interesting carbonated soda, click HERE.


Okay, it's time to talk about the nuns.

Those two sisters in Maypop have been in the back of my mind for many years, waiting for their turn in a story. They spring from my early years in Catholic school and my six-year-old desperate plea to Santa for a nun doll. 

Here is the nun doll I located on Etsy to replace my long lost Sister Josephine doll. It's like she's never been gone. 


I can't explain my fascination with nuns. Perhaps it's because they were rol models. Perhaps it's because they were costumed. I don't know. All I know is that I have always wondered what they might be like as fun characters, and now they exist in the book. 

I never wanted to be a nun, but when I was six, I did pin a scarf on my head like a veil and march imaginary children around the house telling them to hold their buddies' hands and not dilly dally. Like I say, role models. 

A craft question: Do you write what you know?

Writers talk about this all the time, don't we? The question is what does know mean in this context? My work arises out of a grand mishmash of everything I have been exposed to and experienced. I create from whole cloth, often riffing off of memories of place, incidents and people. Nothing is documentary. Nothing is biographical, except to say that when I challenge a character to feel something, I draw from my personal emotional well of feelings. I go to my heart. My mom was nothing like Sheriff Boyd, but I've had mother-daughter conflicts. I know what that tension feels like, how it can ache and hot it can challenge a tender young soul.

You moved to North Carolina recently from Hawaii. What have you found to be the biggest difference?

I'm originally from Minnesota and I knew a lot of North Carolina, so I haven't experienced any surprises. Not so with our pets. Our two dogs and cat had never experienced squirrels, turkeys, deer, cold, or snow. Wathcing them come face to face with Western North Carolina nature has been pretty hilarious.

This is a picture on day one. They're hyperventilating after seeing their first squirrel.

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24. Gertie's Leap to Greatness


The number one quality of books I love is a distinct writing voice.

Well, hold onto your Twinkies, cause this one's got voice and then some.


Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

This is Kate Beasley's DEBUT novel. 

But she writes like a long-time pro.

You can't help but fall in love with dear Gertie.

The story races along at a pitch perfect pace.

And the illustrations are adorable.

But the writing voice!

And the humor!

Aunt Rae's nostrils would flare, and she'd heave herself off the sofa with a humph and start cleaning the house so violently that Gertie felt sorry for the dirt and grime.

Seat-stealer she thought in the nastiest voice she could imagine, and she felt even better.


Jessica Walsh sounded like someone who needed to have dirt rubbed in her face.

What kind of person said bath tissue? A Mary Sue Spivey kind of person, Gertie guessed.

Gertie watched the back of Mary Sue's head, and she wondered why some people read better and had yellow hair and got to wear lip gloss and meet famous people and sit in the front row. And she wondered why she wasn't one of those people.

They were the gray crayons nobody cared about. They were the so-so students. They were the last-place losers and the skinned-kneed nobodies, and Gertie was their queen.



I could go on and on but I won't.

I'll just tell you that you should read this book.

The bad news?

It's not out until October 4.

SORRY

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25. Great Day at Harbins Elementary School


I had a great day at Harbins Elementary School 
in Dacula, Georgia.

They chose THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER
for their One School-One Book program.

I was greeted by a super sign.

The students had made some terrific frogs like Tooley Graham in the book.

I got some chocolate frogs!

More frogs and even a letter!


Here I am talking to the K-2 students over their closed circuit TV.



Amazing media specialist, Kathy Schmidt, showing me their Water Wonder 4000.



I signed a lot of books.


Third graders

Fourth graders

Fifth graders

Thanks for a great day, Harbins!

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