Sunday, October 31, 2004

Sock Monkey Goes To Hollywood

Sock Monkey Goes To Hollywood: A Star Is Bathed by CeCe Bell (Candlewick, 2003). The good news: Sock Monkey, the famous actor, has been invited to the Oswald Awards; he was nominated for Best Supporting Toy. The bad news: He has to be clean at the event. Stinky soap, icy water, scratchy towels! Whatever will Sock Monkey do? This hilarious story is packed with emotion and drama, a must-read for reluctant bathers and those who love them. Ages 3-up. First time author/illustrator to watch!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Texas Book Festival 2004

"People say you should write what you know, and I don't think that's true. I think you should write what you can imagine. That ability, that's what makes you an author."

-- Walter Dean Myers at the Texas Book Festival, Austin 2004

Had a delightful day at the Texas Book Festival with Greg.

We went to readings by Austinite Brian Yansky on My Road Trip To The Pretty Girl Capital of the World and my friend, Alex Sanchez, on So Hard To Say.

I stayed on for a panel with Sherry Garland on Voices of the Alamo, Judy Alter on Sam Houston is my Hero, Mary Penson on Billy Bardin and the Witness Tree and Julie Lake on Galveston's Summer of the Storm. Here's sending up a special cheer for Julie, an oh-so articulate TBF first-timer. Julie also headed up Austin SCBWI's first ever exhibit booth at the festival, which looked spectacular!

Last, but by no means least, we stayed on to hear a discussion with Kimberly Willis Holt, Walter Dean Myers, and (again) Alex Sanchez on YA writing. It was my first time to ever hear Myers speak, and he was every bit the gracious gentleman, genius, and living legend I expected. Kimberly is a long-time friend, and I look forward to speaking with her myself in Houston in January.

Author sightings also included Dianna Hutts Aston, Frances Hill, Mary Lankford, Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Jane Peddicord, D. Anne Love, and April Lurie.

Winter's Gift

Winter's Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan (Sleeping Bear, 2004). In years past, the old man would celebrate Christmas with his wife, put a star on the top of the tree. But during this year's holiday blizzard, he decides there is to be no tree, no star, because his wife has recently died. He's surprised to find a mare that night though, fallen in the storm, and brings her into the barn for care and safekeeping. What surprise will she have for him come morning? Will there ever be another star? Ages 5-up; highly suitable for adults.

Friday, October 29, 2004

One Mitten

ONE MITTEN by Kristine O'Connell George, illustrated by Maggie Smith (Clarion, 2004). What can one mitten do? Or, even better, how about two? (Unlike me) George is a master at light, happy rhyme for Pre-K, making this friendly book ith its endearing illustrations a winner. Ages 3-up.

As it happens, I received an update yesterday from Kristine's Web site; this (reproduced with permission) is what she says:


"Elves (well, at least one elf) have been hard at work updating my web site: Below are a few highlights.

"HUMMINGBIRD NEST: A JOURNAL OF POEMS (illustrated by Barry Moser; Harcourt Children's Books) includes new links, resources, New York Times book review, and audio clips with a musical background. A free poster and other poetry goodies are available. (For details, click on Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems or For Teachers.)

"ONE MITTEN (illustrated by Maggie Smith; Clarion Books) was just published! We've launched a fast and easy Internet project to celebrate the joy and power of creativity: The One Mitten Imagination Challenge in which students in K-3 are invited to submit their ideas and tell us what they'd do with just one mitten. Students' ideas will be showcased on the site and there will be a drawing from among the entries for 25 autographed copies of the book. See the One Mitten Teacher's Guide on the site as well as the downloadable teacher's guide for ideas on using mittens across the curriculum. Feel free to forward this e-mail to elementary teachers, librarians, bookstore owners, and homeschoolers. The more the merrier!

"SWIMMING UPSTREAM: MIDDLE SCHOOL POEMS (illustrated by Debbie Tilley; Clarion Books) was chosen as an IRA-CBC Children's Choice. The downloadable teacher's guide and the discussion guide are among the most popular features on my site and I've received wonderful feedback from teachers who have used the book and these guides in their classrooms. Curious as to what students think about middle school? Check out Middle School Musings.

"Other updates are scattered throughout the site. If you haven't visited recently, there's also a whole new look. As always, many thanks for your notes, encouragement, and suggestions. Knowing you are "out there" sharing poetry with young people keeps me going!"

Thank you, Kristine, and keep up the great work!

In other news, information for Kindling Words 2005 is available from the Web site. It appears that Susan Salzman Raab will be the keynote speaker, talking about establishing one's own publishing identity.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Michelle Meadows

I received a letter today from Michelle Meadows, one year after the release of her debut picture book; this is what CLSCLR had to say about it:

THE WAY THE STORM STOPS by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger (Henry Holt, 2003). In this every-beat-just-right debut picture book, Meadows crafts for young readers the beauty, excitement, awe, scariness, and comfort of a storm. Litzinger's soft art is just right for a rainy day or night. Wonderful and rare multicultural pre-K book with a universal theme. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Meadows writes that the book also received raves from Ebony magazine, The Washington Post, Washington Parent, School Library Journal, and the Gazette newspaper (among others). It's also been recommended by several respected sources (including the University of Michigan Health System) as a resource for helping children cope with fear of thunderstorms. Great news!

In other news, an exhibit of Paul O. Zelinsky's work, Angels to Ogres" will open November 4th ath the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature.

Had the pleasure of lunching today at Katz's with newly contracted author Chris Barton, who just sold his first (picture) book to Charlesbridge (editor is the sparkling Yolanda LeRoy). Nice guy! Look for great things from him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Jim Stevenson

Texas author Jim Stevenson has posted a new newsletter. Jim is the author of 5K Runner; I met him at TLA (I think) last year. Lovely man. Kathi Appelt introduced us.

I'm pulling materials right now for my YA Novels class for the Writers' League of Texas. Should be interesting. I hope people bring partials as invited. It'll be more vibrant that way. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

What If You Met A Pirate?

What If You Met A Pirate? A historical voyage of seafaring speculation by Jan Adkins (Roaring Brook, 2004). The word "pirate" evokes parrots, peg legs, daggers and swords, but that image is mere fiction. In a color illustrated, question-and-answer format, Adkins gives young readers the real scoop on such matters as "who got to be a pirate?" "What did a pirate ship look like?" "How did pirates attack?" The illustrations are detailed and clearly labeled with interesting side bars (do you know a cutlass from a boarding ax?) in an informative conversational style. Complete with index and glossary; beautifully produced. Highly recommended.

More from Cyn

From the flap copy, I learned that one of Adkins previous books, The Art and Industry of Sandcastles, was nominated for a National Book Award. He also has another title with Roaring Brook, Bridges: From My Side To Yours.

What If You Met A Pirate? is a tremendous non-fiction book, as engaging to strong readers as reluctant ones. It makes me want to write a pirate novel.

Visit Jan Adkins online and meet the "Explainer General" for yourself!

Monday, October 25, 2004

Unexpected Development

"Bongos, boobs, cantaloupes, chi-chis, grapefruits, headlights, high beams, Himalayas, honkers, hooters, jugs, marangas, melons, mountains, ta-tas, taters, tits, tomatoes, watermelons, and yams."

-- Megan in Unexpected Development

Unexpected Development by Marlene Perez (Roaring Brook, 2004). What did Megan do over her summer vacation, Mrs. Westland? Sex. That's what she relates in her answering essay. But that's not all. Megan also works at a pancake house, fends off sexual harassment, contemplates breast reduction surgery, and finds herself overwhelmed when a crush turns into a real boyfriend with everything that implies. With its emphasis on body language and virginity lost, this debut novel has an engaging voice and an Are-You-There-God-It's-Me-Margaret-meets-Forever quality sure to win readers. Highly recommended. Ages 12-up.

More from Cyn

Having been somewhat bountiful myself from fifth grade on, I appreciated that Perez didn't boil the plot line into one neatly containable issue from mass digestion.

In youth lit, too often when we're exploring a perspective not shared by all, the tendency is to exclusively zero in on one facet for reader translation.

The upside, I suppose, is that it's easier to digest. The downside is that it's so lacking in real-life complexity as to be misleading.

Sexuality, sexual harassment, and body image issues are inseparable, and Perez does a deft job of showing that sometimes uncomfortable relationship.

Other pluses: the cover (which the accompanying letter notes was "too bold" for the tastes of a major chain store); the Midwestern setting (can't begin to say how many people ask me why all books are set on the coasts!); the likelihood to encourage conversation; a first-time author to cheer for!

From the author's Web site, I see that the book (to be released in September) is already an ALA Quick Pick nominee and featured in:

Capital T Spells Trouble: Ten "Dangerous" Books and Why Teens Need Them by Cathy Belben from the Smart Writers Journal.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Pooja Makhijani

"The First Time," a short story by Pooja Makhijani is available online from Cicada, a young adult magazine published by Carus.

Pooja is also the author of Mama's Saris (Little Brown, 2006).

Friday, October 22, 2004

"The Political Dr. Suess"

Chris Barton, Austin's newest under-contract author (Charlesbridge), wrote this morning to let me know about an upcoming PBS program, "The Political Dr. Seuss."

Off to a school vist this afternoon at Mathews Elementary in Austin!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

O. Henry Middle School

What a fun visit Greg and I had this morning at O. Henry Middle School.

It was such a delight to walk into the library, all spooky for Halloween, and see such titles on display as Shattering Glass and Dead Girls Don't Write Letters by Gail Giles as well as The Afterlife by Gary Soto.

The sparkling librarian also mentioned that the Circe Du Freak series by Darren Shan was hugely popular--so much so that she was surfing to get new titles in more quickly.

Greg and I talked to an enthusiastic group about Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo as well as Rain Is Not My Indian Name. Then we lead the group in a pre-writing exercise to create a character work sheet (let's hear it for Greg the orphaned frog who can't sing but can fly and wants to find true love!). The students wrote letters to themselves from Greg the frog and volunteers read theirs aloud--thoughtful and hilarious! We were most impressed.

Quote of the day: "All the really hot frogs live in Pflugerville!"

Two Timely Titles

Some buzz....

My Teacher for President by Kay Winters, illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Dutton, 2004) just went into its third printing and is a winner this election year.

I was asked today by an Austin Public Librarian to speak, and (at three invites a day) was already booked. But along the way, I learned that Austinite Phil Yates' Ten Little Mummies, illustrated by G. Brian Karas is going into paperback reprint--no small event with a picture book--and Scholastic is planning to sell it with gauze so kids can wrap themselves up in it. Spooky, eh?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Some interest today in a possible French language edition of Rain Is Not My Indian Name (Harper, 2001). I forwarded them onto my agent. We'll see what happens.

Monday, October 18, 2004


Heard many good things about this past weekend at Rutgers from Debbi Michiko Florence and Rosemary Brosnan. Looking forward to a report from Sean Petrie.

Lunch at Katz's; dinner at Hyde Park.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


Had a first-rate time at the Austin SCBWI conference this weekend at the Pecan Street Cafe (only whine: very lukewarm lunch).

Learned that Candlewick is every bit as magical as I'd imagined it was (as was editor Sarah Ketchersid, who recited Greg's favorite speech from Shakespeare), that Charlesbridge is growing in exciting new directions (transitional and middle grade fiction under editor Judy O'Malley), and that Roaring Brook--love, love, love the house; needs a Web site--has thrown its hat into the graphic novels trend by going for literary quality under Mark Seigel (illustrator of Sea Dogs by Lisa Wheeler and Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant). Also mucho impressed with the speech by oh-so-charming Rosemary Stimola, which among other things, made me curious about sub agents.

Best news of the day: Chris Barton sold a first book to Charlesbridge! Yahoo!

Carried on with Stephanie to Musashino's, then to the Driskill where we ran into the whole Austin Film Fest, including Page who joined us afterward at Katz's.

Key Question: when on earth did fish-net stockings come back in?

I'm so out of touch. Sigh.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Wonder Woman

Yesterday, I finished the new draft of my manuscript. Today the house is actually clean, and the company will be arriving within the next half hour. My hair even looks cute today. Perhaps never before have I felt so everyday va-va-va-Cyn, like Wonder Woman.

Surf by Belle Yang and the newly redesigned Georgia Children's Book Awards site.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

National Book Award Finalists Announced

The newly announced National Book Award finalists are:

Deb Caletti for Honey, Baby, Sweetheart
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Pete Hautman for Godless
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Laban Carrick Hill for Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance
(Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown & Company)

Shelia P. Moses for The Legend of Buddy Bush
(Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's
Publishing Division)

Julie Anne Peters for Luna: A Novel
(Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown & Company)

Congratulations to my husband's publisher (Little Brown) for their double coup as well as S&S for their triple, and all the authors, especially Julie Anne Peters whose work I've admired for some time.

Here is an interview from my site with Julie Anne Peters from earlier this year.

LUNA by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, 2004). It seems like forever that Regan has been keeping the secret that her brother Liam is really Luna, is really a girl instead. After years of struggle, Luna's ready to start taking steps--small then tremendous--to make her inside reality an outside reality. But will Regan lose herself in trying to be the best confidante, the best sibling she can? A breakthrough book about two siblings, one transgendered and one sacrificing much of herself out of love. Read also Her Humor Hits Home: An Interview With Julie Anne Peters by Peggy Tibbetts from (focusing on Julie's middle grade fiction).

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

I had a visitation. In February 2001 I’d just completed two novels without a break: KEEPING YOU A SECRET (a YA lesbian love story) and BETWEEN MOM AND JO (which may forever remain a secret if we keep pushing back the pub date). I was catching up on sleep. I’m a terrible insomniac anyway, and most of my head work for a book is done in bed, lying awake, working through nuances in character and plot, dialogue, language, transitions. This particular morning, I remember so vividly, a strong presence woke me. She was a girl, sixteen or so, with shoulder-length blonde hair and bangs. Characters don’t usually come to me so visually distinct and fully formed. She said, “Write about me.”

I said, "No. Go away. Come back later."

She did, the next night. "Write about me."

“No,” I said. “But who are you?”

She replied, “I’m Luna.”

I remember thinking, That would make a great title for a YA novel. But I wasn’t ready to start a new book. I fended Luna off, for weeks and weeks. Finally, I just got so irritated with her waking me up at three A.M., I sniped, “What? Write what? What’s your story?”

She smiled, demurely, and said, “I’m transsexual.”


What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

After my initial resistance (and I was resistant to writing this book; I didn’t feel I could tell Luna’s story authentically), I began to research transsexualism. I knew zip, zero, zilch about being transgender or gender-variant. I should’ve known, but gender identity and sexual orientation are two different animals. Beyond case studies and psychology texts there’s a dearth of mainstream fiction dealing with the subject. After six months my knowledge of their lives only scratched the surface, and to write a novel I need to know my characters intimately, to get under their skin. I called the Gender Identity Center of Colorado and cried, "Help!"

I asked if they could hook me up with a person who’d be willing to talk to me about growing up transgender. They invited me to a support group meeting.

To demonstrate the extent of my ignorance, I thought I’d be walking into a roomful of Ru Pauls. I’d be the most underdressed girl there. Stupid. They were just a group of ordinary people, in different stages of transition, gathering together to share their trials and triumphs.

I explained that I was working on this novel and asked if anyone was willing to sit down and share their story with me. Were they willing? They were desperate. Desperate for people to know and understand them. Almost every person in that room volunteered to help. Somehow word got out that I was doing this book and my e-mail box began to fill with letters from transgender people who wanted to participate in the project.

The book was two years in the writing and revising. My agent, Wendy Schmalz, and my editor at Little, Brown, Megan Tingley, are both enlightened, progressive, and intrepid people and industry professionals. They embraced the book with enthusiasm.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

About halfway through the novel, I abandoned the project altogether. I felt that fictionalizing the lives of these people was trivializing their struggle. The next day – it’s so weird to think back on this – an article appeared in the Rocky Mountain News about the brutal murder of a gay teen in Cortez, Colorado, Fred Martinez, Jr. As I was reading the testimonials from his friends, I realized Fred wasn’t gay. He was transgender. His life, his journey of self-discovery, had been denied him by an ignorant and violent society. I felt it was a sign that I should finish Luna; that it could serve as a way to educate people. I knew if the book ever came to publication, I’d dedicate it to Fred.

There were, in fact, literary challenges to pulling this thing off. The major one was my stubborn bias in favor of authentic voices in LGBTQI literature. I’m not trans. I never will be. My authenticity bias couldn’t be compromised. To be authentic and honest, the narrator, the main character, would need to act in the role of observer. I decided to create a sister for Luna, Regan. Regan would be Luna’s confidante throughout life and in that way she could see, and relate to the reader, the childhood manifestations of being born transgender.

Of course Regan would need her own story. What could she possibly want or need that could equal the ferocity of Luna’s survival instinct to transition to another sex? When I figured out the answer, it seemed obvious. Young readers will no doubt get there faster than I did.

The challenge of exploring Luna’s childhood with flashbacks was a new writing experience for me. I’m always battling my own biases. I’m not a huge fan of flashbacks in novels, since they tend to pull readers out of the central storyline. Too often flashbacks are a lazy way for the writer to fill in backstory. But in the writing process, as I was recreating Luna’s past, my subconscious writer kicked in and switched the narrative from past to present tense. Yikes. I didn’t know if that had ever been done before. Young adult literature is all about experimentation and risk-taking. There are no rules, no limitations, no literary expectations to overcome. I liked the immediacy of reliving Luna and Regan’s childhood in the present. It gave the reader (and writer) a feeling of being there.

It was also a challenge to strike a balance between educating and entertaining readers. To honor Fred, and every person struggling with gender identity issues, it was imperative for me that the story transcend the whole “difference and diversity” theme. I believe Regan and Luna speak to the power of love between siblings.

Novels and Journals

Overall, it's been a much better year for picture books than novels, but I just got a healthy stack of mucho promising picks:

11,000 Years Lost by San Antonio author Peni R. Griffin (Amulet, 2004);

Unexpected Development by first-time author Marlene Perez (Roaring Brook, 2004);

Death By Eggplant by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe (Roaring Brook, 2004);

Busted by Betty Hicks (Roaring Brook, 2004).

Yes, the RB books are in, including some picture books I'll tell you about soon.

More personally, it's been a great day. I got my stitches out, wrote two scenes, went to lunch at Suzi's China Grill & Sushi Bar (Hunan shrimp) with my honey, picked up comics at Dragon's Lair, and bought a couple of journals at BookPeople. Tonight I'm planning to watch "Smallville" and/or the presidential debate.

Tips for journal shoppers: make sure you get spiral bindings so you can lay the book flat and actually write in it; make sure the pages are lined (unless you're also an artist); don't get anything so pretty that you're too intimidated to use it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Austin SCBWI Fall Conference

The Austin SCBWI conference is this upcoming weekend, and I'm getting ready to host my friend Stephanie from Wichita Falls and Judy O'Malley from Charlesbridge. Airport pick-ups, restaurant reservations, house cleaning. Eek! Busy Cyn.

Monday, October 11, 2004

National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian

I just learned today from Kyra Teis that Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/Harper, 2000)(ages 4-up) is available in the gift shop of the new National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian. Is that cool or what?

Incoming Books & Related Shopping

Had a lovely lunch today with Page (who's moving to San Francisco; sigh!) at Green Pastures and swung by the P.O. to pick up my mail.

Highlights included the Levenger and Culture for Kids catalogs.

Levenger offers "tools for serious readers;" pricey, but it's fun to flip pages and drool. Occasionally, I'll order a holiday gift for, say, my wonderful agent.

Culture For Kids calls itself "your best resource for language & culture" books, videos, CDs, crafts, dolls, and music. It's a good place to look for multicultural materials, and they're kind enough to sell all three of my titles.

I also received postcards highlighting:

Alec's Primer by Mildred Pitts Walter, illustrated by Larry Johnson (The Vermont Folklife Center Children's Book Series, 2004)(ages 6-10). "Alec's Primer recounts how a young Viriginia slave learned to read from his owner's granddaughter in this uplifting tale of defiance and endurance. Based on the true story of Alec Turner (1845-1923), father of Daisy Turner (Daisy and the Doll).

That Blessed Christmas Night by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Deborah Perez-Stable (Abingdon Press, 2004)(ages 4-up). "The wonder of the first Christmas is seen thorugh the eyes of children as they put on costumes and reenact that holy night. In gentle rhyming words and heartfelt illustrations, the children sing their praises of the Child and invite us to sing along."

Dori also has another new title: Momma, Will You? by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Viking, 2004)(ages 4-up). "A little boy is eager to show his baby sister all the wonderful things in the world--feeding the hen, milking the cow, or cuddling with the puppy. Lilting rhymes and heart-warming art capture a growing child's curiousity and a mother's tireless love."

And I'm adding the oh-so timely My Teacher for President by Kay Winters, illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Scholastic, 2004)(ages 4-up) to my IN pile.

In my personal news, I redeemed my exciting $50 gift certificate prize from Emeralds on a pair of black-and-white pumps, which I may wear to the NCTE publishers' party. (By the way, I disagree with the customer on citysearch; the service has always been great when I've shopped there).

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Sunny Sunday

It was one of those perfect Austin days. Sunny, mid 80s, nice breeze. Did some writing and took some time off to grab lunch with my honey and shop the antique stores on Burnett and South Congress. Didn't buy anything but relaxation.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Whale Snow

A translation of Debbie Dahl Edwards' picture book Whale Snow, illustrated by Annie Patterson, (Charlesbridge, 2003) is available online in Iñupiaq. (It takes a while to download; 10 minutes on my computer; so be patient).

Check it out: Jane Yolen has a blog.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Scribe, La Lorna's New Dress, Southeast Asia, and Karen Hesse

The October issue of "Scribe," the newsletter of the Writers' League of Texas, features a profile, "Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, A Fairy Tale Come True" by Dianna Hutts Aston.

I'm also the league's star instructor this month.

Cinco Puntos has released a new edition of its best-selling title, La Llorona's New Dress by Joe Hayes, in celebration of the book's twentieth anniversary. This title has sold more than 100,000 copies and was the second book ever published by the house.

Children of the Dragon, Children of the Tiger: Great Reads About Southeast Asia by Michael Levy from

How A Children's Writer Survives The Newbery Award with Karen Hesse from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Call For Donations: Michael Lacapa

Children's book author/illustrator Michael Lacapa (Apache-Hopi) was seriously hurt in a five-car accident in New Mexico last Thursday.

Michael's books include one of my favorites, Less Than Half, More Than Whole (Northland, 1994), which was co-written with his wife Kathleen (Mohawk).

Medical and related expenses are an ongoing concern.

Please pray for the Lacapa family and/or make out a check to Kathleen Lacapa, indicating it's for "Mike's fund." The address is: The Lacapa Family, P.O. Box 587, Taylor, AZ 85939.

Thank you for considering this request.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Highlights Writers' Conference

Press release:

"Writing for Children" sponsored by the Highlights Foundation

July 16, 2005 – July 23, 2005

Our mission is to enhance the personal and professional development of the writers and illustrators of literature for children by providing support and guidance through our workshops and educational programs.

This intensive, week-long retreat at the famed resort in western New York State is designed for individuals interested in writing for children. Conferees at the Children's Writers Workshop at Chautauqua have the opportunity to work in individual and small-group sessions with some of the most accomplished and prominent authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers in the world of children's literature.

The conference is limited to 100 writers and both full and partial scholarships are offered to qualified applicants. Available spaces fill quickly, so applicants are encouraged to register as soon as possible for the 2005 workshop.

Conferees have the opportunity to work in individual and small group sessions with some of the most accomplished and prominent authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers in the world of children’s literature. Participants attend workshop sessions, lectures, and panel discussions on a variety of topics ranging from plot development and characterization to submitting a manuscript for publication and finding children’s markets. Through the manuscript reader and mentoring program, attendees are able to meet with individual members of the Chautauqua Workshop faculty in one-on-one sessions to review and critique their work. {Manuscripts are requested ahead of time for the program}."

Past Workshops:

Point of View, Writing Dialogue, Conflict/Tension, Characterization, Beginnings and Endings, Developing a Plot, Editing Your Own Writing, Crank Up the Creativity, Motivation and Inspiration: A Writer's Life, Getting Started: Writing First Sentences, Writing for Beginning Readers, Creating a Rebus, Think Pictures, From Manuscript to Picture Book, Writing for the Upper Grades, Action and Adventure Stories, Memoirs: Mining Your Memories, Humor, Writing Biography, Research to the Printed Page, Photo Research, How to Write a Nonfiction Children's Book, Writing Illustrated Nonfiction, Electronics and New Media, Designing a Book, Writing for Teacher Publications, Belief and Bylines: Writing for the Inspirational Market, Writing Poetry for Children, Fantasy, Puzzles and Games, Getting Out of the Slush Pile, Rights, Contracts, Copyrights, From Publishers to Booksellers: Into the Hands of the Reader, Writing for the Magazine Market, Cut It Out: Trimming the Fat From Your Prose, From Acceptance to Publication, From Submission to Acceptance

The faculty of the 2005 Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, New York will include the following distinguished names: Larry Dane Brimner; Joy Cowley; Patricia Lee Gauch; David Harrison; Juanita Havill; Fred McKissack; Pat McKissack; Pam Muňoz Ryan.

Accommodations: We coordinate ground transportation to and from airports, trains and bus stations in Erie, PA and Jamestown/Buffalo, NY area. We also coordinate accommodations for conference attendees.


The Highlights Foundation was established in 1985 as a means of providing support and guidance to writers and illustrators for children. Our goal is to improve, over time, the quality of literature for children by educating future generations of children's authors.

For twenty years, the renowned Highlights Foundation Writing for Children Workshop at Chautauqua has stood at the cornerstone of our mission. More than 1,700 individuals have attended this extraordinary workshop, an experience that has had a significant impact on their professional lives and on the world of children's literature. Many of our workshop alumni have gone on to become published authors as well as ambassadors of the importance of mentoring children's writers.

Going North

Going North by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue* (FSG, 2004). A family leaves Alabama for a better life in Lincoln, Nebraska. They must brave the dangers that faced African Americans in the 1960s as they travel across the south. Emotion-packed art, outstanding voice. Inspired by the author's own family story. Highly recommended. Ages 5-up.

*slow-loading but absolutely worth the wait; don't miss this illustrator site.

FSG's lists have been particularly strong lately. It's definitely one of the top sources for quality multicultural books (among others). More globally, the publication of multicultural picture books seems to be on the upswing again. However, sales among children's authors are at an estimated 50-75% of what they were at this same time last year. Remember picture books coming out now sold at least two years ago; this is the tightest market we've seen in years. That said, the market for literary trade novels is much better than for picture books.

I'd like to mention another wonderful picture book, Crossing by Phillip Booth, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick, 2004/paperback). This gorgeous look at a train crossing has already been much heralded. It was an ALA Notable and PW Best Book; it also received stars from Kirkus and PW. However, I'd like to emphasize that it's available now from Candlewick in a sturdy paperback at a suggested publisher price of $6.99 U.S. and $9.99 Canada. Lovely! Ages 5-9.

Buzz on the new S&S catalog is good; lots of literary trade, more diversity of voices. Look for upcoming books by three Austinites:

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story by Anne Bustard, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus;

The Secret Prince by D. Anne Love;

Broken China by Lori Aurelia Williams.

Novel to look for: Hunger Moon by Sarah Lamstein (Front Street, 2004). Because I'm working so hard on my own novel right now I'm having a hard time getting the new ones read. But this one is on the top of my stack.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

How Many Submitted Books Does CLSCLR Recommend?

A site visitor wrote asking me this question last night, and I did my version of a statistical analysis AKA guesstimate:

The answer is that CLSCLR recommends about ten percent of the books submitted for consideration. We do brief, positive recommendations. It's not a traditional review source with a full analysis.

In addition, we do like many of the books passed over. However, one of my goals is to highlight quality midlisters, new voices, and voices from underrepresented communities. The latest title by, say, a three time Newbery winner doesn't need the help like a promising first timer who wasn't tapped for publisher push.

However, just because a title isn't added to the site doesn't mean that I won't put it on a bibliography for a particular speaking event or emphasize it in a media interview.

Another site visitor asked: "what did you think of 'Desperate Housewives'?"

It's like "Melrose Place" in the suburbs. In fact, the main cast even includes "Melrose" alum Marcia Cross, who played Kimberly.

By the way, even though I've claimed to have sworn off lawyer/doctor shows, I also watched the premier of "Boston Legal," which is like "L.A. Law" without the moral center. It stars James Spader (must be a robot; he doesn't blink) and William Schatner (Greg has been a fan since the original "Star Trek" and I have since "Third Rock From The Sun").

In sum: it's a guilty pleasure night on ABC. Not sure how long I'll keep watching, but so far, yikes!

Reminder the Texas Book Festival is the last weekend in October. Go hear the children's and young adult authors!

Congratulations to the darling and talented Kelly Bennett! Kathi Appelt tells me that Kelly was admitted to the MFA program in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College!

Kelly's next title will be Not Norman (Candlewick, spring 2005).

Monday, October 04, 2004

Children's Illustrator in "Desperate Housewives"

One of the characters, Susan Mayer, on "Desperate Housewives" (new this fall at 8 central on ABC) is a children's book illustrator. She's played by Teri Hatcher, best known for her role as "Lois" in "Lois & Clark." I adore TH and so far the character is likable, sympathetic.

One writing nitpick: the character minimizes herself as "big with the under five set." Generally speaking, people in the business don't think less of themselves because their audience is younger. Also picture book illustrators are usually big with the under seven set.

The book I'm reading now: The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton, 2004).

Haemi Balgassi's friendship garden refers to me as "beautiful" (she's too kind and beautiful herself) and Greg as... Well, go see for yourself.

Really Boring Books for Children by Melissa Bell.

Jazzy Miz Mozetta

Jazzy Miz Mozetta by Brenda C. Roberts, illustrated by Frank Morrison (FSG, 2004). Miz Mozetta is dressed to dance, but who will be her partner? Jazzy, snazzy, and that's sayin' somethin'. Ages 4-up.

Note: of dance, urban, African American, and elder interest; FSG is doing many of the best multicultural books these days, including picture books.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Children's Writer

Outgoing Austin SCBWI RA Debbie Dunn was kind enough to send me an article "Connecting The World: Creating Ethnic Fiction for Today's Young Readers" by Judy Bradley from the October 2004 issue of Children's Writer: Newsletter of Writing And Publishing Trends.

In a gray box titled "Reading The World," the author recommends the works of Walter Dean Myers, Allen Say, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Jacqueline Woodson. Talk about good company! I'm honored.

Congratulations, Stephanie

Big congrats to Stephanie Marshall, who just found out she was accepted as a student in the MFA program in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College.

I first met Stephanie when she was a student at Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland's summer program in College Station, and she's a tremendously promising new voice.

Lots of keying in this weekend while Greg is going over the galleys for Tofu and T.Rex (Little Brown, spring 2005). It's exciting to see it typeset.

Friday, October 01, 2004

An African Princess

An African Princess by Lyra Edmonds, illustrated by Anne Wilson (Candlewick, 2004). Lyra has always been told she is an African princess, even though princess with freckles who live on the tenth floor are rare. But when other kids doubt her, she begins to wonder herself. Will a trip visit to Taunte May, an African princess herself, clear up any confusion? A joyous celebration of self in engaging, lively illustrations. Features a biracial family. Ages 4-up.

National Book Month

Find out more about National Book Month, sponsored by the National Book Foundation (which also sponsors the National Book Awards).