Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas in Paris a la Papa

Reading A Moveable Feast to prepare for our Christmas holiday in Paris. My son is a big Hemingway fan, and we're staying in Montparnasse near Gertrude Stein's old place. We'll be hitting one of Hemingway's favorite cafes for Christmas dinner. Now if we could only get hold of that magical time-traveling taxi in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to Feed Your Food Bank

Just a little P.S.A. for the holiday season: food banks all around the country are running low on stores. My neighborhood Salvation Army reports that twice as many people are coming in as last year. In the past, food banks could depend on overflow from holiday donations to carry them through the winter, but no more. I learned that my food bank was not as interested in turkeys and trimmings as they were in everyday canned staples, pasta, rice, etc. A tip: they prefer small quantities as opposed to Costco portions because so many people come in on the bus or on foot and have to carry the groceries. Happy giving everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time to Wake UP!

I've spent a good long time absent from the blogosphere while wrestling with my latest book. I've also learned a great deal about the challenges of creating a novel-length fairy tale.

1. Fairy tales are short for a reason. They are compact little stories that were passed along orally for generations before someone (Grimm brothers, for ex.) transcribed them. I love the old Grimms' tales for their lively economy, but a novel requires things like fully-fleshed characters and a complex plot.

2. Fairy tales don't have to explain much. Novels require an answer to "why?" A fairy tale can begin by stating: "Once upon a time, a mouse, a bird and a sausage entered into a partnership and set up house together." (That's a real fairy tale quote, by the way.) In a children's novel, that situation might need a little more set up. In fairy tales, people make strange requests of each other ("fetch me the first hazel twig that strikes your hat") or are introduced as being quite proud of their red shoes (which never are mentioned in the story again). Can't do that in a novel. There has to be motivation and follow through.

3. And then there's "voice." The Grimms' tales make reference to the past with archaic language: trod, weep, thither, bade, thereupon... I love that stuff! But there's a danger of sounding like a Renaissance Faire trainee if one lays it on too thick. I've tried to find a balance, because mine is not a modern retelling, but a fairy tale wannabe.

I'm inching my way along, and I'll continue to see where the story might take me. Maybe I'll drop a few breadcrumbs along the road so it won't take so long to find my way back.

Book Review with an Artist's Eye

Picture Me Reading is a cool website with a graphic take on book reviews. I love what they did with THE AVIARY's cover theme. Check it out at: http://picturemereading.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/book-review-the-aviary-by-kathleen-o-dell-4-stars/

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kidwriters! Join me for a special writing workshop!

We are very lucky indeed to have Once Upon A Time Bookstore in our neck of the woods. It is the oldest, continuously running children's bookstore in the whole U.S.A. Maureen Palacios, the owner, is a dedicated, hardworking book wrangler who also offers book-related fun stuff for the community to enjoy. This Monday, June 25th, I will be offering a workshop from 6-7:30 p.m. to kids who want to try their own hands at writing. We are going to delve into creating complex characters. Each workshopper will create two different characters with their own backgrounds and quirks. Then we're going to drop those fictional folks into different situations and see how they react? (Sounds almost like a science experiment, doesn't it?) If you can't make it Monday, please note the other fabulous authors conducting workshops of their own: July 2 - Cecil Castelucci July 9 - Pseudonymous Bosch July 16 - Lin Oliver and Theo Baker July 23 - Leslie Margolis July 30 - Lisa Yee August 6 - Stuart Gibbs Call ahead if you want to reserve a spot! Hope to see some of you there! 2207 Honolulu Ave La Crescenta-Montrose, CA 91020 (818) 248-9668

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New book, new groove!

Just finished copy editing a book, moving on to another. And it feels good! Like I knew it would!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Checking up on my pioneer ancestors...

My sister and I just made the journey from Portland, Oregon to southern California and stopped along the way to pay homage to Levi Scott, our great, great, great, great grandfather. He was one of the men who forged the Applegate Trail--a southern alternative to the Oregon trail--in the mid 1800's. An Applegate Trail interpretive center outside Roseburg, Oregon, had lots of information on him. My sister and I bought a book about Levi and were honored to sign a special book for descendants of the Scotts and Applegates.

When I was growing up in Oregon, it was common to have an adult remind complaining children that they'd never have survived the trek on the trail with an attitude like that! In fact, one of the first big arguments I had with my husband came after I demanded a break after hours of clearing some land for a garden. He said I'd never make it on the Oregon Trail, and those were fighting words to me! Now I freely admit that in spite of hailing from pioneers on both sides of my family, I'm more of a sit-in-my-chair-and-daydream type than I am a rugged outdoors woman. At best, I could make a decent pot of coffee, play a banjo and tell stories around the campfire--that is, if I didn't fall asleep from exhaustion first.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ah, there's one!

Witches! Do you see any witches?

Me neither. Too foggy. But it was still a thrill to follow in Goethe's footsteps to the top of the Brocken--the highest peak in northern Germany--where Faust sold his soul to the devil.

Witches are represented everywhere around here: on bumper stickers, store signs and key chains. Supposedly, pagans took to the wood in cowls to practice their rites after Christianity became the enforced religion of the land, and northern Germany had a lot of holdouts. Hence, a reputation for witches.

I've brushed up on my Grimm's and have come back inspired and ready to tackle a new tale. I'd like to create something particularly hair-raising, but I don't think children's authors are allowed to go as far as the old storytellers who lived in the shadow of the Harz Mountains. (Read "The Girl With No Hands" if you don't believe me. Eeesh...)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Into the Woods...

In a few days, I'll be in Germany, following in the footsteps of the Grimms. I hope to find inspiration in some medieval towns at the foot of the Harz mountains and come back with some tales of my own! Pics to come.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I remember staring at the back of that Colgems album, hoping that Davy Jones wouldn't get married before I turned eighteen. Sure, he'd be in his thirties by then, but that'd be okay. He was one dreamy boy...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fun February with California Readers

10:30 A.M. TO 2:00 P.M.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Come see me! (and bring your mom...)

The Mother-Daughter event at Flintridge Bookstore is a great opportunity for girls and moms to visit with a variety of authors. You go in groups from table to table, author to author--sort of like literary speed dating. I'm bringing my historical research and weird discoveries I made while working on THE AVIARY. And have you seen who else is on the agenda? BIG TIME authors! Authors of legend! So don't miss it!