Ebony, Words, and Barbara O’Neal

Some years ago my niece and her husband, and their two children, came from Australia to visit me in my little desert oasis home. The house was bursting at the seams, full of noise and good humor, and we all had a wonderful time. I was very taken with the girl child, Ebony. She was about eleven years old and she aspired to be a writer. When she spoke about her desire it was with a very adult view. She had a ton more confidence about her abilities than I have ever had. But she had excellent role models with her parents, and it seemed nothing was off limits. Shoot for the stars was probably their family motto.

One day Ebony and I were sprawled out on the couches, watching the Disney channel on TV and eating cookies, and chasing away the dog who was trying to intimidate us so she could get her share of those cookies. I began to ask Ebony about her writing. She said one thing she would not do, was illustrate her books. She said that words were more important, and that a book doesn’t need pictures because people can make their own.

That thought has stayed with over the years. In fact, now if I get to a scene and it isn’t working I remember what that young child said, and I think about creative imagery. What picture am I trying to form? What visual do I want the reader to take from my words? What pictures are my chosen words creating? Sometimes those words are giving a false picture. I have to go back in and make the words more vibrant, give them color, passion, fire, true meaning…I have to bring them to life.  I have to make certain that my words and my characters actions are in sync, and if they aren’t then I have to show why they aren’t.

                                Barbara O’Neal, www.barbaraoneal.com is one of my favorite authors and I recently read her new book, The Garden of Happy Endings. When I read her stories I’m often blown away, not by her more descriptive passages (which are gorgeous) but by the simplest of her sentences. I’ll often turn up the corner of a page and go back to reread and always get the same pleasurable feeling I got on that first read. I think of them as sunbursts. Here is one:

“The night air began to smell of roses and possibility.” ~page 266~         

It was the last sentence in a scene. Talk about an excellent hook. I mean how could you not read on? Oh, yes. I wanted not just the scent, but the possibility, and of course the author provided a wonderful follow up scene. But doesn’t that one simple sentence say so much? Doesn’t it create a picture in your mind? It does for me.

Words are very important. Thank you, Ebony, and thank you, Barbara.

Now tell me of some of your favorite authors whose words and pictures have stayed in your memory for days, months, and yes, even years.

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16 Responses to Ebony, Words, and Barbara O’Neal

  1. Janie Emaus says:

    I love all of Barbara’s books. I haven’t read this one yet, so I think I’ll buy it later today.

  2. Robena Grant says:

    You’ll love it, Janie. It has some dark moments, but all are necessary to the story. I really enjoyed how deep she delved into the characters emotions.

  3. I love Barbara O’Neal for the very same reasons. I just finished the book, as well. I was profoundly moved and there are things I want to talk about as a feminist and an atheist. I wrote to her on facebook and asked how long I should wait because I didn’t want to be disrespectful and spoiler too soon. She graciously answered that I should write my blogpost and state upfront there were spoilers but not to wait because best to do it while I feel passionate.
    I am blown away by the generosity and graciousness of successful writers like her.

    • Robena Grant says:

      That is wonderful, Judy, and yes, Barbara is awesome and her book left me thinking for days…weeks maybe. When I see your post go up on the Bettyverse blogroll I’ll be the first one over to read and comment. : ) Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Lovely post! I have many favorite authors whose words stick in my mind, seemingly at the perfect of times. 😉 Some of my faves include Julia Cameron, Maya Angelou, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, helped me through a difficult time, so it holds a very special place in my heart.

  5. Robena Grant says:

    Hi August, thanks for stopping by. I also love The Artist’s Way, and I’m a big Atwood fan. SK scares the pants off of me so you can have him. : ) Also, I checked out your blog…what an awesome interview.

  6. Maria says:

    Too many favorite authors to name and their words come up at different times. The one that I love and have for a while is from BEST FRIENDS FOREVER by Jennifer Weiner, “There is no secret.” The doctor tells this to the protagonist about losing weight, but it’s true for all of life. “There is no secret.” You just have to do it, whatever it may be.

    And then there is Richard Bach. I enjoy all of his books, but my favorite has to be ILLUSIONS – THE ADVENTURES OF A RELUCTANT MESSIAH. This is a good quote, but the whole book is full of them. “You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”

    When words are simply beautiful they resonate for a while, but don’t leave as lasting an impression on me. After a while, I’ll remember thinking that the words in a book were so beautiful, but I can’t remember the exact phrases. Sometimes I’ll reread the book and other times it will be like a favorite meal, a pleasant memory to visit.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Maria, I love those quotes. In fact someone said to me recently “There are no secrets.” And the other women in the group all grinned and repeated it and I thought they were referring to the book, The Secret. They’re all avid readers and I’ll bet it was from Jennifer Weiner’s novel. I like her work but have not read that one. Guess I’d better. : )

  7. Oh, I love how wise your niece is. What amazing words to come out of an eleven-year-olds mouth. I’m betting she’s going to be a very successful writer. I’ve not read anything by Barbara O’Neal – thank you for the introduction! Gosh, so many authors strike me with their amazing words. Most recently, I guess it would be Marilyn Brant and John Green, but honestly, I think I find something in every book I read.

    Another wonderful post, Roben!

    • Robena Grant says:

      Thanks, Robin. I’m always blown away by how other writers arrange their sentences to create a picture. I have to admit sometimes I’ll read and reread a paragraph just because it’s so awesome. : )
      And yes, Ebony is an amazing teenager. So wise for her years.

  8. london mabel says:

    That is a wonderful line.

    The only lines that stick with me are funny ones!

  9. Robena Grant says:

    Hi, London. Isn’t it? And yes, on the funny lines, I adore those too.

  10. Julie says:

    Ooooo I love Barbara!
    And her books. 😉

    You need to keep us updated on Ebony, though. We’ll want to know how her writing is coming along.

    (I’m on the library wait list for this one, very excited that I’m only one or two down.)

  11. Robena Grant says:

    I figured you would be a Barbara fan, Julie. : ) You’re going to love this read. Ebony is now in her mid teens. Still in high school, and earlier this year lost her brother in a horrible traffic accident. She has won some writing awards, and I’m sure that in the months since Josh passed she has been doing a lot of journaling. So, who knows? : )

  12. Carol says:

    Such wisdom. The words are very important. How many times have we all read a book with a picture of the scene burned in our memories just by reading the words? I devoured books as a child and seem to be on a four year reading binge. There are so many pictures it would be hard to pick a favourite. Some excellent authors: Jennifer Crusie, Mary Stewart, Bridget Asher, oh so many. Lovely post, Robena.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Thanks, Carol. Yes, I can quote lines from Cruise novels. : 0
      I’m not familiar with Bridget Asher’s work, thanks for that. I’ll take a look.