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January 2013

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Sentences and Barbara O'Connor

Recently Grier Jewell at Fizzwhizzing Flushbunker reviewed Hound Dog True and said this:

"Hound Dog True had me at the first sentence and held me in its enchanting grip until the very last page. (As I read this, I kept thinking, did Barbara O'Connor change her name to Linda Urban?)"

Could a person be paid a higher compliment?

I love Barbara O'Connor's writing.  Each book is a gem (I'm particularly fond of The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis -- but you know how I feel about small things.) and each sentence in each story is so carefully crafted.  There's a rhythm to what Barbara writes, and an attention to detail.  Have you read any of her posts about the line edit stage of her novel writing? Read these.  You'll see what I mean.

Anyway, I thought that Grier's kind words were as good as it gets, but this morning I read THIS.  Yes.  Barbara O'Connor picking out a few sentences she liked from Hound Dog True.  I am, Dear Reader, aflutter.

If you link up to read them, you might notice that some of them are rather oddly constructed.  Some are fragments.  Some seem to interrupt themselves.  That's Mattie's voice.  And in the next few weeks, as we talk about how Hound Dog True became a novel, we'll talk about that voice and how it came to be.  (If you missed yesterday's post and are interested, you can click here to read an early picture book version of the story.)

Until then, go read Barbara's notes on her revisions.  Eye opening stuff.


Thanks for the link to all of those amazing revision posts. I just read the first one but will go back later to read them all.

You are a master of finding good stuff online. :)

And I'm happy that someone you admire likes your work. I'm not surprised, just happy.
Barbara's revision notes are really interesting, I think. Her ear is so finely tuned and it really directs most of her line-level edits. If you read her edited sentences out loud you can really tell the difference.
I read the sentences Barb picked out from HDT. Question: when and how do you write those little beauties? Do those gems of sentences tend to come when you're in the zone and they just pour out like you've got a muse or do you work at them or both? And do they tend to come during the first draft or during revision or both?
Thanks for all these questions -- I'll try to answer them in a later post, but in short: Some are gifts that come when I'm truly "in character" and drafting. Others don't seem so swell until I start cutting extraneous words in revision. I'm going to look at some drafts of HDT and see if I can find some examples.
I would like that.
What do you know, two of my favorite authors in one blog post!! :)

Off to read her revision notes now, though I'm afraid they will make me feel quite inadequate at this writing thing.
They shouldn't. What Barbara shows in those revision notes is how the small details add up. How they can make a difference to the reader -- and also to the writer. Rather than making you (or me, for that matter) feel inadequate, they validate the time we spend on the tiny stuff. Its actually pretty energizing!

smooch smooch

hug hug

thank you

(And I'll go to my grave saying that that coatroom scene with Star is just about the greatest scene in a children's book EVER!!!! Seriously. Those pages on the floor! Ogre! I felt every heart beat of that scene.)
smooches in return, baby.
And thank you.