Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Shannon O'Donnell

Welcome to today's Friday Feature. This week we are exploring the journey of picture book and chapter book writer, Shannon O'Donnell. Shannon is a wonderfully supportive blogger, and her comments always make me smile. Each blog post at her blog, Book Dreaming, is a wonderful balance between interesting photos, amazing quotes, and her own writing experience. I love visiting because I always, always take something away from it. She gets me thinking! This is my most recent favorite post, about the virtue of being disloyal to that first draft--something I know a bit about! I am excited to introduce Shannon on the blog today. Make sure to leave her a question or comment in the comment section, and visit her blog on the way out!

Welcome, Shannon! Thanks for being here today. Tell us a little about yourself.

A high school English teacher, I have a master's degree in Education and serve as my school district's writing specialist and 6 Traits of Writing trainer. I specialize in training teachers about the value of children’s books (picture – YA) as teaching tools, across the curriculum and at all grade levels. I am a member of the Montana Educators Association & Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of both the NEA and the NFT, and am a committee chair for the Montana State Reading Council. In addition to Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory, I have nearly completed its sequel, Molly and the Naughty Girl Workshop.

Shannon, what are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a chapter book called, Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory. I originally wrote and queried it as a picture book, before realizing the story didn’t want to be a PB. It wanted to be a chapter book. We had a tug-of-war of wills, and the story won. I’ve been re-working it for about a year now.

I love that--the tug of war of wills. The book always wins in the end, I think! What made you start to write seriously?

I’ve dreamt of writing picture books for as long as I can remember. It was my husband who finally pushed me off the ledge. I think we all need someone behind us, cheering us on, believing we can do it. After a few years of nagging, I started my first picture book.

What a supportive husband! Tell us, what stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you? Has anything surprised you about this stage?

Right now, I’m waiting for critique feedback on the Naughty Boy Factory. I’ve been struggling with the ending for a while, but I think it’s getting close. If I get a green light from the girls, I’ll do a final proof and then get ready to query. As for surprises, I think I’ve been floored by how long this process actually takes. I can only pray “time” is a little kinder to me in the querying process.

Oh, the waiting for feedback stage. That's one of my least favorite stages. I bet you're spending some time on the internet as you wait! If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

Ouch! Now, that’s not a very nice question. Only one? There are blogs I love for their quality writing lessons, blogs I love for their humor, blogs I love for their content, and blogs I love for their blogger. If I HAD to choose only one, though, I think it would be “The Bookshelf Muse”. I have a folder full of Angela’s valuable writing lessons and advice – especially her Thesaurus entry posts. On any day, I can take Angela’s lesson and immediately apply it to my WIP.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Hmmm. I think my favorites are “The Runaway Tree”, “Cavewriting”, and “My Paragraphs are Frankensteins”. The first two are posts based on Barry Lane’s book, After the End. The third is a lesson based on something from Stephen King’s, On Writing.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Guide to Literary Agents” by Chuck Sambuchino. The information on that site is priceless. I love the way information is organized into user-friendly categories. The “successful queries” category is extremely helpful, and I love the New Agency Alerts.

Shannon, what has been your biggest trial in writing?

Patience! I’m the kind of person who wants something yesterday. Waiting has always been hard for me, even with little things. As we all know, writing is all about waiting. Waiting to finish the draft. Waiting to edit the draft. Waiting to finish editing the draft. Waiting to hear back from all those query letters written in blood. I can’t tell you how difficult that is for someone like me.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

There are tricks? What tricks? Lately, the best way to give myself a good kick in the rear is to cruise our blogging circle. The trials and tribulations and successes of blogger buddies is a real motivator for me.

I agree whole-heartedly--our blogging buddies have much wisdom to impart! Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Patricia Polacco and William Steig are two of my writer heroes. Oh, how I love Patricia Polacco! As for a writing tool, I think Steven king’s On Writing is my favorite.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

My practical goal is to be published – to hold a book in my hand and see my own name on the cover.
A reach-for-the-stars goal would be to walk into Barnes and Noble and see my book, sitting face out, on a shelf.

I can't wait for that day! So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

The best thing that ever happened to me as a writer was finding all of you. Seriously. I have never felt more encouraged, more driven to succeed, and more understood than I do within this blogging community. It’s wonderful to know I’m not alone. I love it that we can all share our hopes and fears and successes (Beth Revis!!) with each other.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

It would be a pale yellow room, with huge windows and a view of water. I would sit at a beautiful antique desk, in a fluffy-soft, cushioned chair, tapping away on a new Macintosh computer. Canisters of peanut M&M’s and other misc. chocolates would line shelves within my reach, and a mini fridge filled with ice-cold Pepsi would sit nearby. And because it would be a kid-free, husband-free zone, I would hear only silence.

Sounds dreamy. I hope the walls are sound proof! If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Oh, that’s an easy one. I would be Meg from Inkheart, living inside the ink world with Mo and Dustfinger.

I haven't read Inkheart--it's going on my list right now! What other distractions are in your life?

I work to keep up with my three children and their busy schedules, while teaching high school English full time. We’re trying to sell our house, so cleaning is a way of life right now. It isn’t easy being prepared to show your house on a moment’s notice with three kids and a hubby!

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

COFFEE! I like my coffee with a little flavored creamer, but my favorite is an extra-hot, vanilla latte.

Shannon--thanks for the wonderful interview. I'm amazed at how much you've accomplished while raising a beautiful family and working full time! And your chapter book sounds so compelling! Everyone, show Shannon lots of love by leaving her a question or comment in the comment section, and let's keep this discussion going! (And don't forget to visit Shannon's blog, Book Dreaming, on the way out!)


  1. Excellent interview. Thanks Shannon and Heather.

  2. Awesome stuff! Good luck Shannon as you head into query-land! Thanks for sharing her, Heather!

  3. Great interview Shannon and Heather! Nice to meet you Shannon! Just so you know, I'll be calling on you to design my own 'perfect place to write' once I'm rich and can afford one, because your vision of one is supreme :)

    Picture book question: As someone who writes picture books, do you think that there is a place for more 'old fashioned' tales in the picture book market place nowadays? Having grown up with stories like 'Catskin' 'Bearskin' 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon' 'Ivan and the Firebird' and the like, I find myself yearning for more stories that are simply good stories when I loiter in the childrens section in bookstores. I rarely find such tales in picture book form. The closest are the Paul Goble books 'The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses' and 'Buffalo Woman'.

    I've always dabbled with writing picture books (my passion is chapter YA) but I find myself writing fairy tale sorts of stories rather than witty modern things and I've never brought one to query-worthiness yet.

  4. Hello everyone! Thanks again Shannon! I was wondering whether you are submitting to agents, or directly to publishers. I've heard picture books are the one type of books that publishers will accept on submission directly from writers. But I didn't know if that was changing. And, how was the feedback on Naughty Boy Factory? Are

  5. Great interview, Shannon and Heather!
    I'm popping over to your blog right now.
    Happy Writing!

  6. Are you ready to query Naughty Boy Factory yet? (Sorry, experiencing technical difficulties on that last comment...)

  7. Great interview! Shannon, good luck querying your book. I'm impatient as well and this process takes soooo long. :)

  8. Shannon - I've always known you're awesome, but this interview totally fascinated me. Your credentials impress me and solidify your god-like image, but I had no idea you also wrote picture books, so I have to give you a PB fist bump!

    "I'm the kind of person who wants something yesterday." I love that and although I think it'll make the querying process a bit harder, you gumption will make up for that.

    Usually I have a profound wannabe question at this point...but I am dry. Okay, I'll go with what picture books have impacted your own writing the most and when did you read them, as an adult or child?

    Heather - Glad you made it!! How's RI?

  9. Thanks so much, Heather, for choosing me for an interview and for your sweet comments about my blog. I feel truly honored to be a part of this Friday series.

    A. Grey - I DEFINITELY think there is a market for classic-style PB's. A lot of teachers and parents still enjoy reading the style and voice of classic stories. I think that's part of the wild success of the newest Puff the Magic Dragon. You're right - there aren't as many as there used to be. I suggest you take a look at Granfather Twilight (beautiful story), The Paper Bag Princess, and Moses. Those are three you might enjoy.

    Heather - I plan to query agents first, but I do have an invitation to submit the full to a publisher. My preference would be to find an agent first, though. As far as my critique is concerned, the feedback was good. I have a bit more polishing to do, which won't take long, and then I'm off to query land. *chews nails nervously*

  10. Great interview, both of you! I'm already a follower of Shannon's, and now I'm over here following you, too. :)

  11. Jon - Have I told you lately that I love you?! *fist bump returned* My favorite PB of all time is Pink & Say by Patricia Polocco - I read it as an adult. I own close to 500 PB's, and if I could only keep one, that would be it. I also adore the original Shrek, Double Trouble in Walla Walla, Math Curse, I Love You the Purplest, Hailstones and Halibut Bones (amazing!), and Mirandy and Brother Wind - to name a few! :-)

  12. That's a great interview! And somehow I missed that post of Shannon's on failing your first draft. That was a treasure, one I needed to read as I write my first draft.

    My daughter is three and we just started reading chapter books. I hope we get to buy yours, Shannon!

  13. Great interview you two!!! I love learning more about fellow writers!

  14. This is an EXCELLENT interview!

    I adore Shannon and die daily waiting for her book to be published.

    If I'm ever in Montana, heading to Shannon's with two cups of extra hot cups of coffee will be my first stop.

  15. Great interview! Love hearing more about your life, both inside writing and out!

  16. Great interview! Shannon, you said you're most interested in writing picture books - do you have any pb projects you're working on in addition to your chapter book?

  17. Wonderful interview. Shannon you always make me smile and this interview just validates my love for you & your blog!

    Excellent interview. Love the mini fridge with the ice-cold Pepsi... ;o) It was a pleasure to learn so much about you in this interview!! I cannot wait to see your name in B&N!!

    I am so glad that I could discover a new blog to follow!

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  18. Great interview! Shannon, you are inspiring!

  19. Fun interview! Hi, Heather! Great to meet a new bloggite friend. Hope you visit my place sometime!

    Shannon, didn't know you were impatient. DID know about the coffee. Perhaps we can share a cup at a future conference!!

    Have a blessed weekend!

  20. Great interview! I cannot WAIT to read Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory. I wonder if that's where Wyatt came from ? (my Wyatt)Let's all plot to get your first copies and hit the B&Noble and put them all face out on the first shelf we see....

  21. Stephanie - If it's ever published I'll send your munchkin one for free. :-)

    Jen, Betty, & Karen - Thanks so much, ladies!

    Jennie - I'm going to hold you to that promise. So...get your butt over here, girl! Ha ha.

    Anna - I have a PB about a boy dealing with his grandfather's early Alzheimer's, a Technology ABC book, and I'm working on a baseball PB.

    Princess - Awww...I love you too! :-)

    Patti - I would love that. But hurry up, cuz I'm feeling impatient! Ha ha ha.

    Mary - Deal! I forgot we both have Wyatt's! -)

    Valerie - I couldn't do it without you, partner!!

  22. Great interview, Shannon. Excited to hear more about your journey as you begin the query process. I'll be stopping by your blog as always. From one teacher to another, keep fighting the good fight!

  23. Thanks for those books Shannon! I'm going to check them out as soon as I get the chance! And I'm so glad to know that fairy tale type PBs are still being published!

  24. I didn't realize Shannon was a hs English teacher! I love the title of her chapter book! I also love the description of her ideal writing room!!
    Fabulous interview, ladies!

  25. Shannon! Patricia Polocco is a fave of mine too and she's a local author to me. I place her books on the feature rack at the library all the time. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Great interview! Loved learning more about Shannon, and totally fell in love with her dream writing room (only I would switch the Pepsi for Coke)!

  27. A fun and informative interview. Nice to read about Shannon here.

  28. I loved the interview! I ran over from Shannon's blog. Good luck on your publishing journey!


  29. Hi everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by and supporting Shannon--she's fantastic! And, J, since you asked, RI is fun and sandy!

  30. Great interview. I came over from Shannon's blog to check it out. Although now I'm here I shall stay and check out your blog too:)

  31. What a fantastic interview--it was great to get to know Shannon a bit more! And I've read The Naughty Boy Factory, and it's very unique and is sure to find a home once it's all ready to meet the world.

    Thanks for your kind words about my blog, Shannon! You are the best!

  32. Shannon, it was great fun meeting you here in this other space today, and to learn a little more about you. You've shined so much of your light onto others to let them glow. It was time for that to be reversed. I'm glad I stopped by. Will continue to keep in touch with you and your exciting projects. Hugs from ND! Roxane

  33. When can we get together to share peanut M&Ms and vanilla lattes? I'm ready. Those are two more of my guilty pleasures.

    Great interview. Keep on Book Dreaming!

  34. WoW! It looks like I fell a little behind. Thank you - ALL - for your show of support, and to so many who've popped over from my blog to say hello.

    Tracy - HI! It's been way too long since I visited Crossing Chalk. I'll see you there soon. :)

    A.- You are so welcome. Feel free to email me and I can send you a longer list.

    Kelly - That room is a dream, isn't it?!

    Jon - A local author? I am soooooo j-e-a-l-o-u-s. I am seriously stalker-fan quality when it comes to Patricia (and James Dashner) Hehehe. :-)

    Alexia - Coke?! Say it isn't so?!

    Sliding, Lindsay, and Justine - thanks bunches!

    Angela - Yay!! I'm so glad you got to see the bit about you. I totally meant it and you know it. Thanks for the nice words about NBF! -)

    Roxane - Hello, my friend. I was offline all day yesterday, so my visit to Peace Garden Mama is overdue. I miss you. I'll be by later for sure!

    Mary - You, Roxane, and I are way overdue. :-)

  35. Nice post and great interview! Jumped over here from Shannon's blog and I'm a new follower! Looking forward to reading future blog posts.

    Have a fantastic weekend.

  36. Great interview! I enjoy Shannon's blog, too. Her photos are amazing.

    I live on The Bookshelf Muse. It's my home away from home. It nice to see I'm not the only one.

    I love Shannon's dream work room. I'll moving in with her as soon as she finds it. ;)

  37. Hi Shannon and Heather!!

    I also enjoy The Bookshelf Muse - I can use a huge amount of the information from there for my Greek students - I'm an English teacher, too. You seem to be a lot more normal and mature than me, however....I think I stopped maturing mentally at around 15-16!

    THANK YOU SHANNON for allowing us to get to know you better...and HUGE HUGS for my DEAR FRIEND Heather - as always the gracious HOSTESS with the MOSTESS!

  38. Excellent post. I thought I knew a few things about you, Shannon, but now...more! And I love your dream writing space description. I hope that dream comes true for you because holding your published book in your hands is going to come true.

  39. Great interview. I hadn't realized Shannon was an English teacher either. I'm one of those who doesn't get around the "sphere" as often as I'd like, but I'm always pleased when I get on over to Shannon's blog. Off to check out that first draft post. Thanks you two!

  40. Great job, Heather. Got to love Shannon. I loved getting to know you better, Shannon. ";-)

  41. You guys are all super awesome. This has been such a fun day, Heather! :-)

  42. Thanks for the awesome interview - I've loved Shannon's blog for a long time!

  43. Heather, just came over from Shannon's blog on her reccomendation and am now a follower. Great interview, ladies. Shannon, I can definitely relate to the supportive husband. If mine hadn't given me a nudge I never would have started down this crazy writing road at all.

  44. Great interview! I love the questions asked. - Kristen

  45. Super job ladies! Shannon sounds just as much the sweetheart as she does over at her blog. Loved learning more about her.

  46. Hi, Shannon and Heather, What a super interview. Real questions with real answers that hit responsive chords!! Thank you, thank you!

  47. Great interview!

    So interesting to see how other writers write their books.


  48. Love the interview! I have a pale yellow room - its the best colour - the kids... keeping them out only happens when they are sleeping!

  49. Wonderful interview! Shannon is something special!

  50. Sorry I am so late to the party. I had a crazy Friday. I totally agree that I love to see Shannon's comments around and the post about first draft loyalty has a very important message. Thanks you both for the interview.

  51. Such a great interview. Thanks for sharing!

  52. Hello everyone!! Thanks so much for stopping by, I appreciate it. I'm sorry that I have been MIA--it was vacation week for my kids, but know that I truly appreciate every bit of support that you guys threw Shannon's way--thanks!! I knew the comment section was in very capable hands, with Shannon fielding her questions and comments! I can't wait to spend some time checking out all the new blogs featured here in the comments. Lots of wonderful new (to me) bloggers came by here--thanks everyone! And, thanks, Shannon for the wonderful interview!

  53. Great interview! Thank you for all your insights, Shannon. We love you on the blog circuit, too. ;o)