HEIDI'S PICK SIX
1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
One of my favorites is Althea in Taking Care of Moses because she was so bratty. It was fun to crawl inside her and be bratty, too.
I'm also quite fond of Bird in Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia. I like her spunk and drive. I like that she appreciates a good person when she sees one (her friend, Miss Delphine) and I like that she wouldn't give up on her friend, Harlem.
AND (I hope I wasn't supposed to have only ONE favorite!) I really love one of the characters in my upcoming novel, Greetings from Nowhere (Spring 2008). Her name is Loretta. She's very upbeat and cheery and sunshiny, always skipping and singing...the kind of kid you want to hug.
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?
I do a lot of school visits - doing author presentations and conducting writing workshops in elementary schools. I love kids and so enjoy being able to get out and be with them and be inspired by them. I also love to hear what the students have written. Fourth and fifth graders are almost always eager to share with me, so that's a bonus.
5. Who are you reading right now?
I mostly read children's books, but I just finished an adult book of short stories called It Wasn't All Dancing and Other Stories by Mary Ward Brown (a Southern writer). I'm currently reading a middle grade novel called The Rising Star of Rusty Nail by Leslie M.M. Blume.
(By the way, there's an interesting web site called GoodReads.com that is a cyber-social network type site where folks share what they're reading. It's kind of fun.)
6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
From reading, from country western music and from being in the South.
9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?
12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
Unfortunately, what I actually do and what I prefer to do are not always the same. I LOVE writing a book when I know at least the beginning and the end (and can fill in the middle as I go along) - which is as close to outlining as I usually get. I love the feeling of knowing where I'm going. My best (i.e., dare I say, easiest) writing experience was with Moonpie and Ivy. I knew that story from beginning to end. I didn't necessarily know all the paths it would veer into along the way, but I had such a clear vision that I could hardly write fast enough.
Alas, that experience is a rare one. More often than not, my stories just take me along for the ride. I'm currently working on a middle grade novel and have no idea exactly how it is going to end. I don't enjoy writing that way. I'm limping along. The story is coming. But it feels more labored than I would like. Fortunately, I know the characters very well, and for me, that is really the most important element of the story. I think knowing character is probably more important than knowing story - because no matter how good a story is, if the characters aren't great and well-developed, the story will never come to life.
13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
I always credit author Cynthia Rylant as being my biggest inspiration. She helped me find my own writing voice and to appreciate the value of a strong sense of place. I adored Missing May.
15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Barbara O'Connor began writing for children 18 years ago in Los Angeles, California, after taking a children's writing class at UCLA. She sold her first short story to Children’s Digest in 1987. She moved to the Boston area in 1989 and began writing children's biographies. Her first biography (Mammolina: A Story about Maria Montessori) for ages 8 to 12 was published by Lerner Publications in 1993. Since then, she has published five more biographies with Lerner.
While Barbara enjoys writing nonfiction, her heart is in fiction. Her first novel for ages 8 to 12, Beethoven in Paradise, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1997. Her sixth novel, How to Steal a Dog, was published this spring by FSG and has already garnered a starred review from School Library Journal and a Parents Choice Recommended Award.
Barbara is the winner of the 2002 Massachusetts Book Award and four-time winner of a Parents Choice Award. Her next children's novel, Greetings from Nowhere, will be published by FSG in 2008.
When she’s not busy writing, Barbara does author presentations and teaches writing workshops in elementary schools throughout New England and the South.