Coffee & Conversation with Alexis O’Neill

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today we’re continuing our pre-Roads to Publication Conference interviews with the lovely Alexis O’Neill taking the seat of honor in our cyber cafe!

(If you missed last week’s interview with Sandy Asher, then click here.)

Alexis is the author of award-winning picture books such as THE RECESS QUEENTHE WORST BEST FRIEND, AND LOUD EMILY.

This rhyming romp shows what happens when a bully and a new girl square off on the school playground.

When Conrad ignores his best friend, Mike, to hang with a cool new kid, loyalties are tested in a playground kickball game.

A memorable tall tale of ships, whales, and a brave little girl with a very BIG voice!

Alexis is also an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in California, the SCBWI’s Bulletin’s “The Truth about School Visits” columnist, and she will be presenting two workshops at the conference:

–  Picture Books: Grabbing an Editor’s Attention with Vivid Language

–  School Visits: Getting the Gigs and Delivering the Goods.

And now that Alexis is settled and cozy with her favorite coffeehouse beverage, hot chocolate with whipped cream . . .

And her favorite snack, popcorn . . .

Let’s start the interview! First off, Alexis, when did you decide to be a writer?

1985 after I quit a job with a crazy boss. 

How long did your path to your first book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

I sold my first book in 1988. Nonfiction. For adults. About the city of Syracuse, NY. This was a big surprise to someone who expected to earn a living writing deeply meaningful and endlessly long short stories for adults. And then I discovered that I liked writing for kids. Nonfiction.

So now I write picture book fiction. For kids. Go figure. Biggest hurdles? Patching together a living when I was single in order to keep on writing and submitting. I sold my first picture book in 1995. It was a great 10-year path of writing, learning, submitting, getting rejected, improving my writing and then finally getting accepted.

Seeing as how hindsight is 20/20, what advice for beginners do you wish you would’ve followed?

Rejections are not personal (even though they feel like it.) A good book will find a good home eventually. It’s just that no one has a crystal ball to pin down the date of “eventually.”

What is your favorite writing how-to book?

William Zinsser’s On Writing Well

Where’s your favorite place to work? (Bonus point if you share a picture.)

At my desk in my office with a cat. 

YES! I love it when author’s share their workspace photos. 🙂 Okay, how were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

In addition to doing trade books, I just experimented with publishing an e-book containing children’s stories of mine that appeared in Cricket Magazine. It’s called, THREE IRISH TALES and is available on all e-platforms (Kindle, etc.) Mainly, my husband, David, a tech genius, wanted to try this out, so I’m going along for the ride. 

What is your favorite line from this book?

“No lad in all of Ireland made worse choices than Liam McLafferty of Rosmuck.”

Are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day? 

I plan to write (and find publishers for) at least one book in every genre.

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . . Outline or wing it?  A little of both.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?  Moderately zipped.

Sell by proposal or completed draft?  Completed draft.

Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?  Both.

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?  Marketing: a bitter pill.

Read Kindle or traditional books?  Both both both both!

And finally,

what’s your favorite: Time to work?  Morning & late night

Music to listen to while writing?  Never!

Writing tool?  Computer

Pair of shoes?  Sketchers

Guiltiest pleasure?  Watching “Castle”

Line from a movie?  “Ah, yes… I knew your people, Sean. Your grandfather; he died in Australia, in a penal colony. And your father, he was a good man too.”

Oh, man, you just scored major points with my husband for being a John Wayne fan! And thanks, Alexis, for stopping by. We’re all looking forward to meeting you at the conference!

Happy writing, everyone! 🙂

Laura Bowers


About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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6 Responses to Coffee & Conversation with Alexis O’Neill

  1. ediehemingway says:

    What a great interview, Alexis, and I learned new things about you! Can’t wait to see you at our conference.

  2. Thanks, Edie! Can’t wait to see you all in November!
    Cheers – ALEXIS

  3. Wonderful, thoughtful interview and what a CUTE cat!

  4. Pingback: Coffee & Conversation with Jim Murphy! « As the Eraser Burns

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