Monday, February 28, 2005


To writer Catherine Page Koehlert, whose screenplay is a quarter-finalist in the American Screenwriters Association competition. I know Page through the Austin area children's writing community. She recently moved to San Francisco, and I miss her!

To librarian/educator Dr. Loriene Roy for being named winner of a 2005 Texas Exes Teaching Award. I know Loriene through the Austin children's/YA book community, the Native American literature community, and her work for If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything: Promoting Reading At Schools Near Or On Reservations. This program is officially endorsed by the American Indian Library Association and has my full support. Please consider donating books or money.

Some great people who've donated to If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything: Candlewick Press; author Shutta Crum; HarperCollins Children's Books; author Rukhsana Khan; author Jackie French Koller; author Pat Mora; the University of Michigan University Library (go Wolverines!); Random House; author Nancy Werlin; author Jane Yolen. See the whole list.

Poetry Books

I used to write poetry. When I was in elementary school, I even put together a collection of my poems in a little handmade book with a calico cover. I entered it in my district fair and received a white participation ribbon.

Since I've grown up, reviewers will sometimes describe my language as poetic. I heard that a lot about Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/Harper, 2000). But I'm more of a reader than writer of poetry these days.

Books I love include: Kathi Appelt's memoir, My Father's Summers: A Daughter's Memoir (Holt, 2004), which is written in palm poems; as well as Pieces: A Year In Poems And Quilt by Anna Grossnickle Hines (Harper, 2001) ; Wonderful Words: Poems About Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Karen Barbour (Simon & Schuster, 2004); and Is This Forever, Or What? Poems And Paintings of Texas by Naomi Shihab Nye (Harper, 2004).

I want to highlight an upcoming book I'm really excited about: Sketches From A Spy Tree with poems by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer and art by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005). Tracie's site features interviews with children's poets such as Lisa Wheeler, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O'Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. It also offers lesson plans for poetry, poetry quotes, and more.

Cynsational Links

Author Nancy Garden debuts the first book in a new series, The Case of the Stolen Scarab (Candlestone Inn Mystery #1) (Two Lives, 2004). It's about siblings Nicky and Travis, whose two moms have recently bought and are ready to open a New England inn. But then they hear police are on the look-out for a thief who swiped a scarab from a Boston museum. When a mysterious guest arrives under dire circumstances, they're left to wonder if he's the thief...or a victim.

"I'm published. What now?" from author Verla Kay's Web site. "A Web page devoted to the business end of being a published author." An extensive author/writing resource site.

Submit Your Thoughts About Reading for possible inclusion in the book: Page By Page: The Book Of Reading In Words And Pictures by Susan Taylor Brown.

Who Wrote That? Featuring Jennifer Holm published in California Kids (September 2003) from Patricia M. Newman. Read excerpts from two of Jenni's books, Our Only May Amelia and Boston Jane: An Adventure. Peek in on one of her author visits at Bowling Green Public Library in Kentucky.

Words Across Pictures & Picturing Words

Words Across Pictures & Picturing Words: a craft-based, full-day conference in English sponsored by SCBWI & the Bologna International Children's Book Fair at the Bologna Children's Book Fair Grounds on April 12, 2005. (See sidebar on SCBWI events page).

“Why I Love This Book and Published It” with guest publishers: Anne Schwartz (Random House US); Barry Cunningham (Chicken House UK); Deirdre McDermott (Walker Books Ltd UK) ; Isabelle B├ęzard (Bayard Editions France); Jennifer Wingertzahn (Clarion Books US); Neal Porter (Roaring Brook US).

Workshops include: “Picture the Book: From Text to Dummy” with artist/author G. Brian Karas (Atlantic); “The Craft of Revision: Examining Motifs, Compression, Structure, & Character”with author Franny Billingsley (The Folk Keeper); and “Book Reviewing: Where Pictures and Words Intersect” with author/reviewer Leonard Marcus (Dear Genius, Parenting magazine).

Cost is: 85 Euros for SCBWI members; 100€ non-members.

Registration fee includes conference, lunch, and closing cocktail. Manuscript and portfolio reviews available upon request for additional fee. First come, first-served. Please note: no refunds. Program subject to change without notice. This event is organized by SCBWI volunteers and is hosted by the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. Separate registration for the Day-Before Conference and the Book Fair. The Fair is open from April 13 to April 16, 2005. Questions? Register today at:

See photos from the 2004 conference on Erzsi Deak's Web site.

Cynsational Links

Conversation With Leonard S. Marcus, author of Dear Genius, by Etta Wilson from BookPage.

On the Bloomsbury site, you can send a Folk Keeper e-card or download a Folk Keeper screen saver.

My pal, author Tanya Lee Stone blogged about me yesterday (February 27, 2005). She calls me "sparkly," but hey now, she's pretty sparkly herself. Tanya is the author of more than 75 children's books (really!). Her upcoming titles include Elizabeth Leads The Way ("a picture book biography about Elizabeth Candy Stanton, who spearheaded the women's suffrage movement")(Holt, 2006) and A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl (Wendy Lamb, 2006), a YA which will rock your world.

Margery Cuyler's Web site: official author/editor site. Margery's recent titles include: Achoo! illustrated by Bruce McNalley (Scholastic, 2002); That's Good! That's Bad! In The Grand Canyon, illustrated by David Catrow (Henry Holt, 2002); and Skeleton Hiccups, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (McElderry, 2002), among others. For 21 years, she was Editor-In-Chief at Holiday House and has also worked at Henry Holt, Golden Books, and Winslow Press. She's been directing the trade program at Marshall Cavendish since June 1.

Editorial Staff Changes At Children's Publishers and News of Publishers Opening Or Closing from The Purple Crayon. A lot seems to be going on this month. Check it out.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Promotional Postcards

I spent some of the weekend helping Greg send his promotional postcards for Tofu And T.Rex (Little Brown, July 2005) to booksellers, both those on our own list, compiled over the years, and to members of the Association of Booksellers for Children.

As authors we're eligible for associate memberships and have joined along with some other lovely people like: Franny Billingsley; Toni Buzzeo; Erzi Deak; Jennifer Holm; Kristine O'Connell George; and Kay Winters.

By the way, I actually asked a bookseller-turned-author and a librarian-turned-author when to best send said cards.

The bookseller-turned-author said to send them when the catalogs were at the stores, in other words, now for summer. For the most part, bookstores put in their original orders before reviews and what not.

The librarian-turned-author said to send to public libraries about a month before the book is released and to school libraries during the school year, but not during the first month of school. So, since Tofu And T.Rex is coming out in July, we'll wait until October to send to those contacts.

Cynsational Links

Booktalks: Quick And Simple Blog from Nancy Keane. "See some of the booktalkers booktalks before they are published on the Web site. Make comments and give suggestions, too."

Cinderella: Variations and Multicultural Versions from the de Gummond Children's Literature Collection of the University of Southern Mississippi Libraries. Note: readers may remember I have some Cinderella issues, but I just have to marvel at the depth and breadth of the number of related published books.

A Cool Bit With Francesca Lia Block from Favorite Teenage Angst Books. "A never-before-published conversation from 1998."

Sterling Printing and Copying: my main source for promotional postcards and bookmarks. I've also used Web Cards.

Unlikely Arithmetic: Thirteen Ways To Raise A Non-Reader from The Horn Book. A "tongue-in-cheek directive" (a PDF file).

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Celebrate Everything

Greg and I have a philosophy about the writing life: celebrate everything!

Not just sales or awards, but also finishing drafts, revision requests, media attention, whatever.

It's a challenging field with a lot of rejection, and you have to keep your spirits up. Focus on the journey. Let yourself rejoice in every step forward. And not just your own victories but your friends' and colleagues', too.

If you're a beginner, your family may wonder why you're cheering, say, a personal rejection with a request for more manuscripts. Go ahead and explain what it means.

The fact that you're working in such a tough industry is a reflection of your courage. You're someone who's not afraid to pursue your dream.

That in itself is well worth celebrating!

Cynsational Links

Crossing Two Bridges: Coming Out, The Power of Images In YA Lit by Alex Sanchez (adapted from a panel discussion at the 2003 NCTE convention) from the fall 2004 Alan Review.

Graphic Novels Resources from the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Subtopics include: reviews in journals; Web sites for reviews; resource books; listserv; vendors; publishers; other resources.

Humor Fiction: a recommended bibliography from Genrefluent.

Something On My Mind from author/poet Nikki Grimes. What's on Nikki's mind at the moment is the power of prayer. Also see Nikki's thoughts on Wordsmithing 101.

Finally, I was talking about Period Pieces: Stories for Girls selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman (Harper, 2003)(ages 8-12) a couple of days ago, and I wanted to mention that there's another related anthology for YAs (ages 12-up), Don't Cramp My Style: Stories About That Time Of Month by Lisa Rowe Faustino (Simon & Schuster, 2004). See the listing of contributors and read an excerpt. Featured authors include David Lubar and Han Nolan.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Author Joan Bauer

I just visited Joan Bauer's Web site, which has all kinds of nifty features, including a link to "The Books Of Joan Bauer," a reading guide by The Goddess of YA Literature, AKA Teri Lesesne. I'm a huge, huge, HUGE Joan Bauer fan. The woman is a genius.

My favorite of her books is Backwater because of the lawyers (Greg raved about it, too), but I also dearly love Hope Was Here, which was one of my successful Newbery predictions (I know it sounds awful, but I adore being right).

Stand Tall is also an affecting and timely title. Teachers and parents should check out the readers' guides based on the novel (one for children, one for adults) , "How To Talk To Your Children About Tough Times" by Dr. Catherine Hart Weber. They're designed to facilitate intergenerational communication about tragedy both in the headlines and in the home. (The PDF files took a while to download, but I have dial-up). See also Nancy Keane's site for an audiobook excerpt.

The latest news is the upcoming sequel to Rules Of The Road, entitled Best Foot Forward.

Cynsational Links

An Interview With Joan Bauer from The ABCs of Writing For Children by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff (Quill Driver Books, 2003). Note: once had a fabulous dinner with Elizabeth and other bay area authors at The Four Seasons in San Francisco. Yum!

Children's Picture Book Database from Miami University is a source for finding books on specific subjects (or checking out any books competing with a potential manuscript topic)(not all-inclusive; i.e., Jingle Dancer doesn't pull up under "Native American"). Note: I found out about this on the Feb. 24 Children's Writing Update; surf by for more helpful information and tips!

Humor In Young Adult Literature: offers links to numerous related resources, including "Humor, Seriously" by author Joan Bauer from The Alan Review.

Mail this week includes an ARC of A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005)(read Mary's blog), which I've been wanting to read for a while, Humor In Young Adult Literature: A Time To Laugh by Walter Hogan (Scarecrow, 2005), and a number of publisher catalogs.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Period Pieces: Stories For Girls, selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman

Period Pieces: Stories for Girls selected by Erzsi Deak and Kristin Embry Litchman (Harper, 2003). An anthology collection of short stories about girls starting their periods for the first time. Contributors include: Carmen T. Bernier Grand, Erzi Deak, Johanna Hurwitz, Florence Johnson Jacob, Bobbi Katz, Uma Krishnaswami, Jane Kurtz, Kristin Embry Litchman, Linda Sue Park, Dian Curtis Regan, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Rita Williams-Garcia. (Ages 8-up). A Bank Street Best Book (starred); NYPL Women In Books for the Teenage.

My Thoughts

Kirkus did a great job describing my story, "The Gentleman Cowboy:" "Cynthia Leitich Smith tells of a kindly cowboy, barely older than she, who rescues her from her fear of heights on horseback and from being caught on said horse with no supplies or nearby bathroom."

I remember being honored to have been invited to contribute to this anthology, which was edited by Rosemary Brosnan at Harper. A lot of informational books are available on the topic, but I'm not aware of any others that take a look at the emotional side of this coming-of-age moment and from such a variety of perspectives.

I wrote a story inspired by the summer vacations I spent with my parents in the Rocky Mountains. My dad went to Estes Park almost every year, from the time he was a kid, and he loved showing off the place. We'd stay in the same motel, shop in art galleries and trinket stores, and just soak in the views.

As I grew older, I'd spend the afternoons on two or four-hour horseback tours of Rocky Mountain National Park. I remember those perilous paths, the horses running and jumping. I'm sure lawyers have clamped down on the wilder side since then, but wow, was it ever fun!

My story begins, "I rode at the top of the world, surrounded by the snow-dusted Colorado Rockies and valleys of wildflower-speckled grass."

Shameless name-dropping warning: The fact that so many of the authors were personal friends made this book even more special to me. Uma and Jane have visited me here at the the house, and I've met all of Dian's walruses. Linda Sue and I seem to get together at conferences, the most recent being NCTE, and I've only met Carmen once in person at Franny Billingsley's pre-Chicago-fire house, but we're email buddies. In addition, I also once met Bobbi (and have her card) at a lunch that was doubly cool because Lee Bennett Hopkins was there, too.

Note: I've published a chapter book collection of short stories in Indian Shoes (Harper, 2002), two short stories that have appeared in anthologies, and have a couple of YA short stories under contract. So, I appear to be arguably most successful as a short story writer, which strikes me as odd since that was never a per se goal. Of course my original goal when I started writing fiction for young readers was to become a classic middle grade novelist. Instead, I've published a picture book, chapter book, 'tweener, and have an upper-level YA under contract. Pretty much everything but classic middle grade, which shows the muse goes where she pleases.

More Praise for Period Pieces

"...will laugh at the embarrassment of Linda Sue Park's girl in the white pants or feel a touch of relief at Cynthia Leitich Smith's gentleman cowboy whose many sisters taught him how to treat a girl." -- Children's Literature

"An honest, touching, sometimes hilarious collection." -- School Library Journal

"Whether or not they have experienced the arrival of their first 'Georgie,' 'Auntie,' or 'Dona Rosa,' girls will enjoy these stories--funny and self-deprecating, frank and reassuring--which may encourage them to shed embarrassment and take ownership of their bodies." -- Booklist

See my site (use the CLSCLR search engine) for The Story Behind The Story: Erzsi Deak and Kristin Litchman on Period Pieces: Stories for Girls (Harper, 2003) and Uma Krishnaswami's site for the story behind her contribution, "The Gift."

Cynsational News

I received a note this week from a fellow Austin children's writer, Alison Dellenbaugh (you may remember my blogging about how she won the Oscar Mayer essay contest) and we corresponded a bit about online journaling (see Alison's journal). We both tend to err on the side of circumspect, using our journals to say only what we would feel comfortable being overheard by anyone at, say, a writing or librarian conference.

I also heard from illustrator Janee Trasler, who wrote to say how much she was enjoying the blog. I'm quite fond of her kitty art!

Speaking of kitties, since most book folks I know are owned by cats, I'd also like to mention that if your kitty is coughing, you shouldn't assume it's a hairball. Kitty might have asthma and need special treatment. Bashi has asthma. But he has been doing much better since he was diagnosed and put on an inhaler by his wonderful new vet, who happens to be the daughter of children's author Pat Mora.

Cynsational Links

Essential Reading/Personal Views: Chinese Children's Books at the 2004 Beijing International Book Fair by Elisa Oreglia from Posted January 2005. While you're on the site, also check out the archived interview with author Laurence Yep, recent recipient of the 2005 Wilder Medal, by Leonard Marcus.

New Voices: Cara Haycak, author of Red Palms (Wendy Lamb, 2004); New Voices: Melissa Wyatt, author of Raising The Griffin (Wendy Lamb, 2004), and New Voices: Anjali Banerjee , author of Maya Running (Wendy Lamb, 2005) from ALAN online.

Out Of Order by A.M. Jenkins

Out Of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003). Colt Trammel is a popular jock with a pretty, if prim, girlfriend and real problem maintaining his baseball eligibility because of grades. When green-haired Corrine transfers in, he's intrigued, even though it's clear she'll never fit in and doesn't care to. Over time, she becomes his tutor, and the two come to understand each other. Colt's voice is unapologetically alpha male, the Texas high school setting dead-on, and his connection with Corrine refreshing. A fascinating read. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended.

My Thoughts

I was particularly pleased when Corrine enlightened Colt about the whole melon-squeezing issue on pgs. 189-190 of the paperback. Really, that's just a service to humanity.

Hm. I wonder if Amanda ever considered "Struck Out" as a title.

Amanda is also the author of Damage, a Top Ten BBYA, and Breaking Boxes, which was a Delacorte Prize winner. She is speaking on "Rewriting and Revising the YA Novel" on March 26 at a meeting of the North Central/Northeast Texas chapter of SCBWI.

Cynsational Links

Award-Winning Author Amanda Jenkins: an interview by Sue Reichard from

Interview with Debra Garfinkle from the "Secrets Of Success" column on author Ellen Jackson's Web site. D.L. Garfinkle is the author of Storky: How I Lost My Nickname And Won The Girl (Putnam, 2005), which is a must read!

Interview with author/illustrator Kurt Cyrus on Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard (Simon & Schuster, 2005) from illustrator Don Tate's blog (also see Don's Web site). Not entirely by coincidence (Anne, Don, and I are all Austinites), I interviewed Anne on this blog just a few days ago.

We Love Children's Books: offers consulting services for the children's book industry, including Web sites, marketing pieces, writing and editing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Pre-Publication Publicity Roundtable

Last night I participated in a "Pre-Publication Publicity Roundtable," sponsored by the Author's Guild. Essentially, you call in and have a workshop over the phone. It was my first one, and I thought it was fun and worth doing.

That said, I have a strong PR/media background already. It probably would've been even more helpful to someone who didn't have the same pro background or was a beginner in publishing.

Otherwise, I was feeling rather blue yesterday, but I did receive a check from Scott Foresman/Pearson Education for the audio rights to Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/Harper, 2000)(ages 4-up), which cheered me up.

During my "blue period," though, I took this quiz on "Guess The Dictator Or Television Sit-Com Character," which revealed I'm Paula Abdul from "American Idol." Hysterical, yes?

When I taught a writing class one summer with Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland in College Station, the students made the same comparison. That's cool. I'm a Paula fan!

I also finished Missing May by Lee Weatherly (David Fickling, 2004)(ages 10-up), which is one of the Edgar finalists this year, and liked it very much (read my thoughts).

In addition, reading YA author Libba Bray's blog (Jan. 20 blog), I found out that she became a vegan for two years after watching the movie "Babe." It made me feel more normal for giving up mammals after reading Greg's Tofu & T.Rex (Little Brown, 2004) a kajillion times in manuscript form. We're all from BBQ country, you know.

And as some of you may know, my 18-pound alpha cat, Mercury Boo Leitich Smith, is smitten with Haemi Balgassi's Eliza. As it happens, news from Eliza includes a new kitten in the virtual kitty condo, named Ramona.

Cynsational Links

The YA Novel and Me: a new blog from author Gail Giles, whose titles include Breath of the Dragon (Clarion, 1997)(Gail on "How I Wrote It"), Shattering Glass (Roaring Brook, 2002)(Gail on "How I Wrote It")(reader guide), Dead Girls Don't Write Letters (Roaring Brook, 2003)(Gail On "How I Wrote It")(PDF teacher guide), and Playing In Traffic (Roaring Brook, 2004)(Gail on "How I Wrote It").

Remember how I was talking about Laurie Halse Anderson's wonderful new novel, Prom (Viking, 2005)? You can read an excerpt online.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Author Toni Buzzeo

My friend, author Toni Buzzeo, sent me her latest title Ready Or Not, Dawdle Duckling, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2005). It's a hide-and-go-seek book about Mama Duck and her four little ducklings. (Ages 2-up).

See "Write Baby Animals And Get It Right" by Toni Buzzeo from; An Interview With Toni Buzzeo from Authors Among Us: Children's Authors Who Are Or Have Been Librarians; The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo from By The Book: Author Interviews and Book Reviews for Kids from Julia Durango; Author Answers with Picture Book Author Toni Buzzeo from Debbi Michiko Florence; and Getting Personal With Children's Book Author Toni Buzzeo from The Savvy Click.

My Thoughts

Toni and I met as beginning writers, both mentored by author Jane Kurtz, who introduced us. We have since traded manuscripts and supported one another through our respective breakthroughs in this business and become good friends. Toni will be staying here at Casa Smith Leitich during TLA in Austin this spring. She's speaking on "Overcoming Roadblocks to Collaboration" from 3 to 3:50 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6.

Speaking of TLA, Greg offers a related restaurant guide.

Cynsational Links

Beyond Nancy Drew: Picture Books To YA: The Best from 1994 to 2004 from Ravenstone Press.

The Divine Miss Pixie Woods (Cecil Castellucci) from the author of Boy Proof (Candlewick, 2005). A most buzzy book in online circles. Can't wait to read it!

Cynthia Lord's Journal from the author of Rules (Scholastic, 2006)(see author interview, Web site). She was a winner of the SCBWI work-in-progress grant.

Marlene's Journal from author Marlene Perez, author of Unexpected Development (Roaring Brook, 2004). Unexpected Development was a recent ALA Quick Pick. Congratulations, Marlene!

Uppity Girls and Fearless Women: No More Damsels in Distress from Ravenstone Press. A picture book bibliography compiled by Jerri Garretson.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Happy Presidents' Day

The most presidential front list book I love this season is about a first lady: Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Hein (Harper, 2005)(ages 4-up).

I'm hoping to interview the Texas team behind this picture book biography, so cross your fingers for more info to come. I will mention now, though, that Kathi is from College Station, Joy is from San Antonio, and this is Joy's debut book. Yay!

A couple more on-point titles are Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Simon & Schuster, 2003)(ages 5-up) and A Woman For President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Walker, 2004)(ages 7-up)(see teacher's guide).

Teachers and school librarians should also take particular note of Kay's My Teacher For President, illustrated by Denise Brunkus (Dutton, 2004) and find out more about the "My Teacher For President" Contest.

Science Fiction Writers Association Launches YA Fiction Award

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has created a new literary award to recognize outstanding science fiction and fantasy novels that are written for the young adult market.

The award has been named in honor of Andre Norton, a SFWA Grand Master and author of more than 100 novels, including the acclaimed Witch World series, many of them for young adult readers. Ms. Norton's work has influenced generations of young people, creating new fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres and setting the standard for excellence in fantasy writing.

The Andre Norton Award for an outstanding young adult science fiction or fantasy book is an annual honor that will first be given in 2006 (for books published in 2005). Nominations will be based on the same process as the SFWA Nebula™ Awards. Any book published as a young adult science fiction/fantasy novel will be eligible, including graphic novels with no limit on word length.

"We are thrilled to honor Ms. Norton with this new award," said Catherine Asaro, President of SFWA. "Many adults today, myself included, were first introduced to science fiction and fantasy through her books and have gone on to become readers, fans, and authors themselves. Andre Norton has done more to promote reading among young adults than anyone can measure."

Cynsational Links

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: the professional organization for authors of science fiction and fantasy literature. It was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight, who also served as its first president. SFWA has brought together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world, and has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers' organizations in existence. More than 1500 SF and fantasy writers, artists, editors, and allied professionals are members. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards™ for the best science fiction or fantasy short story, novelette, novella, and novel of the year.

My favorite science fiction YA novels include Dancing With An Alien by Mary Logue (Harper, 2000)(read an author interview) as well as The Dark Side of Nowhere (Little Brown, 1997)(read an excerpt and author comments) and Downsiders (Simon & Schuster, 1999)(read an excerpt), both by Neal Shusterman.

Holly Black, Queen of Caffeine: blog from the author of Tithe: A Modern Fairie Tale and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Vist Holly's Web site and read an author interview from (PDF file, takes a couple of minutes to download on dial-up but worth the wait).

The Life Cycle of a Book from Idea to your Home by Irene Harrison's Guide to Book Collecting via Andre Norton's site.

Vijaya Khisty Bodach's author Web site offers some inspirational quotes for writers.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Author Interview: Anne Bustard on Buddy: The Story Of Buddy Holly

Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 2005). A picture book biography of a music icon whose persistence led him to change rock 'n roll forever. Ages 4-up.

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

On a road trip in 1990, I ate lunch in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly’s hometown. It was my first visit. Afterward, my friends and I wandered through a museum on the campus of Texas Tech University. There was a display of Holly memorabilia. I remember a guitar, a pair of thick black glasses.

I’d always loved Buddy Holly’s music, but I knew little about his life. In the coming years, that changed. I saw "Buddy, The Musical" on stage. I heard Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets, perform live on "Austin City Limits." I watched a PBS tribute. I learned that Buddy Holly dreamed big. And never gave up.

During one school year I traveled to Lubbock on business at least twice a month. After I finished work each day, I played tourist. I cruised by the Hi-D-Ho Drive Inn, where Buddy Holly and his friends once sang on the roof. I visited his high school campus where he performed in the choir, drove through streets he’d played on, and I walked along a bank where he might have gone fishing. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was doing primary research.

Buddy Holly was my inspiration. His music. His life.

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

The aha!—I want to write about Buddy Holly happened in 1996. Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly was published in 2005. That’s nine years. And if you count the ones spent marinating, it’s fifteen.

The first draft that I showed my critique group in the summer of 1996 was modeled after my favorite picture book biography, Flight: The Journey Of Charles Lindbergh by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Philomel, 1991), which was edited by Paula Wiseman. I remember sitting at a picnic table in the town square of Round Top, Texas, (an hour or so from my home in Austin) after eating a scrumptious meal at Royer’s Cafe (along with a piece of one of their famous homemade pies, of course), reading my manuscript. When I finished there was silence. Then one member said, “Your author’s note is interesting. That’s where the story is.”

It was an important lesson. I had to be faithful to my voice, my style, not Burleigh’s. As a beginning writer, I wasn’t sure what my voice and style even were, or how to find them, but I knew that would be part of my journey.

A year and a half later I took two pages, all I had rewritten at that point, to a writer’s retreat where I got invaluable feedback from a real live editor. Ten months after that, December 1998, I had a manuscript I thought I could send to publishing companies. My critique group cheered me on. I tiptoed into the submission process. I sent Buddy to one editor at a time, waited for a response, received a rejection letter which almost always said children wouldn’t be interested, felt sorry for myself for a day or a week or a month or two, and then sent Buddy to another editor…

Then came September 2001. I mailed the manuscript to NYC and marked the likely arrival date on my calendar. 9/11. I can’t begin to imagine what that day was like for the editor and others in the city. It was horrific enough from over 1000 miles away. When four months passed and I hadn’t heard anything, I wrote to follow up. In January 2002 my self-addressed stamped postcard returned. The editor checked the box that indicated she had not received the manuscript. And she wrote: “I love Buddy Holly.”

I had hope.

The editor? Paula Wiseman. Yes, the one who edited my favorite book. Why didn’t I send it to her earlier? I don’t know. She’d been reading my work for at least six or seven years. It just wasn’t time. Until then.

Over the next year, we worked on the manuscript. It went through four revisions. Paula helped me find my voice. My style. I’ll never forget the time I e-mailed her in full panic mode. She wrote back one word: “Courage.” It was not the response I expected, but I loved it…and I figured out what to do.

The offer to publish came next and by then Paula had her own imprint, Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. I found a fantastic agent and signed the contract in early 2003.

That spring Kurt Cyrus, illustrator extraordinaire, accepted the project. Yeah. I was a huge fan of Sixteen Cows [editor's note: Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2002)].

I thought my part was done. Silly me. Starting up again in the fall of 2003 Paula and I tweaked the text even more and worked on the afterword until the book went to press.

I held a finished copy of the book in my hand a month and a half before its bookstore debut February 1, 2005. Kurt’s artwork was incredible. He captured the times, the tone, and Buddy Holly himself. I put on a Holly CD and danced.

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

As you might have guessed, I’m not a fast writer. And because there were time gaps (sometimes years, and later months) between my drafts, the manuscript and my research would get cold. As excited as I’d be to dive back in, it was often troublesome to do so until I figured out the key—music.

I’d sit in my overstuffed green chair and listen to Buddy Holly’s music and to those who influenced him—Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hank Williams, and Elvis Presley. Next, I’d review my notes, or rewatch the PBS tribute, or a performance on the Ed Sullivan TV Show, reread sources, or find new ones, tackle research questions, or brainstorm. One time, I knew I had to go back to Lubbock before I could make progress.

Along the way, it wasn’t just Buddy Holly’s life that I researched. I needed to know more about rock ‘n’ roll music, which meant I had to make a trip to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Right? And sit in the Music Library at the University of Texas at Austin and read back issues of Billboard Magazine. And find out things like, what words and phrases were popular with teenagers in the 1950s? While I am not a practicing librarian (I teach wannabe teachers), I do have a library degree and think research is oh so fun.

I wasn’t sure how much of Buddy’s story to tell in the narrative. While my early drafts encompassed his life from birth to death, my editor suggested exploring other possibilities. I was open to that, kind of.

Since I started the project, The Buddy Holly Center opened in Lubbock. It’s an amazing museum that also hosts exhibits for artists, outreach programs, and more. What a gift to the community, to the world. It was there that I interviewed Holly expert Bill Griggs.

The Holly artifacts I’d seen years before were moved to this location, and thanks to generous donations, the collection had been greatly expanded. However, there was only one small display about Buddy Holly’s tragic death. At first I was puzzled. Then it made perfect sense. The museum was a celebration of his life. And that’s when I knew I wanted my book to be about that, too. His death was mentioned in my afterword but the narrative ends when Buddy Holly realized his dreams were coming true.

There is more to Buddy Holly than can ever be put between the covers of any book. He was a remarkable son, brother, friend, husband and musician. We are still blessed by his life and music.

In Buddy, The Biography, author Philip Norman quotes Holly expert Bill Griggs, “Whenever you mention his name, it always gets the same reaction. Everybody smiles.”

That’s what I hope happens every time someone reads my book.

Cynsational Links

"Getting to Know Calkins Creek Books, the New U.S. History Imprint of Boyds Mills Press:" an archived chat with editor Carolyn Yoder from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Elise Broach is the author of picture books such as Hiding Hoover, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith (Dial, 2005), Wet Dog, illustrated by David Catrow (Dial, 2005), and What The No-Good Baby Is Good For (G.P. Putnam, 2005). She also has written a fascinating-looking mystery novel, Shakespeare's Secret (Henry Holt, 2005). This is a lively, funny site. The "about me" section features a baby picture she claims resembles Nixon (nah!). The Q&A is an inspirational author interview. Even more thoughts on writing are available on her news page. But don't leave without surfing by her favorites page. We have four of our favorite children's/YA novels in common: Holes by Louis Sachar; Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; Shattering Glass by Gail Giles; and A Step From Heaven by An Na.

More blogs to bookmark: Tanya Lee Stone, author of numerous non-fiction books and A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl (Wendy Lamb, 2006)(see also Tanya's Web site), and Libba Bray, author of A Great And Terrible Beauty (Delacorte, 2003).

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson

Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson (Linworth, 2004). First-rate guide book to mysteries for young readers. Topics include: an introduction, definition, mystery appreciation, series mysteries, curriculum connections, programming, and extensive additional resources (awards, URLs, bibliography, etc.).

Of concern is Jeanette's finding that: "With just a few notable exceptions, most detectives in children's mysteries are still Anglo or animal." She also notes that diversity among children's/YA mystery writers is slight.

Recommended to both experts and other enthusiasts, some of my favorite featured titles are: Counterfeit Son by Elaine Marie Alphin (Harcourt, 2000)(read an excerpt); Crusader by Edward Bloor (Harcourt, 1999), Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac (Harper, 2001); Dead Girls Don't Write Letters by Gail Giles (Roaring Brook, 2003); The Ghost Sitter by Peni Griffin (Puffin, 2002); Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause (Yearling, 1995)(read author interview); Son Of The Mob by Gordon Korman (Hyperion, 2002)(also don't miss Son Of The Mob: The Hollywood Hustle); and Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin (Laurel Leaf, 2000)(go see Nancy Werlin's cover art gallery).

Notes: Interviews with Gail, Peni, Annette, and Nancy are available on my Web site (use the site's search engine). Jeanette is the uber-guru children's librarian at the Austin Public Library.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Oklahoma Book Awards

I received an invitation today to attend the 16th Annual Oklahoma Book Awards from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Unfortunately, I'm too swamped to make it this year, but I just love this program. Two of my books have been finalists in the children's/YA division: Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000) and Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001).

The award is set up to honor Okie authors and books with Okie settings. I wish there more programs of this kind to honor local authors, especially in the central and mountain time zones (who tend to be underrepresented on big publisher lists).

My pal Sharon Darrow's The Painters of Lexieville (Candlewick, 2003) won last year.

Sharon is also the author of a picture book biography: Through The Tempests Dark And Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, creator of Frankenstein, illustrated by Angela Barrett (Candlewick, 2003) and Old Thunder And Miss Raney (DK Ink, 2000). See also Meet The Pros: Sharon Darrow from SCBWI France and Sharon's biography from SCBWI Illinois.

Sharon and I met back when I was living in Chicago's near South Loop, and we used to meet for lunches at a Thai restaurant a couple of blocks east of my loft apartment. I miss those lunches, but still enjoy seeing her whenever we can find one another in the book world. Places we've spoken together include the Oklahoma Red Dirt Book Festival.

Other Okie authors include Anna Myers and Molly Levite Griffis, both of whom are former OBA winners. Find out more about the 2004 winner and finalists. I'll keep you posted on 2005 news.

Cynsational Links

Articles by editor Stephen Roxburgh from Front Street include "Coming of Age: The Evolution of a YA Publisher;" "Trilobites, Palm Pilots, and Vampires: Publishing Children's Books in the 21rst Century;" and "Call Me Editor." Note: the "about us" section also mentions that: "half our authors are previously unpublished."

Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Newsletter Vol. 10, No. 1: features news, archive, a few FAQs, and Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, 2003)(review, "things to talk about and notice," activities, related books, related areas of the site, and a link to Kevin's site).

SCBWI Paris: Meet The Pros: an archive of numerous interviews with such luminaries as: Rosemary Brosnan (my Harper editor); editor David Fickling; SCBWI national president Stephen Mooser; editor Emma Dryden; editor Sarah Hughes; editor Susan Carnell; YA author Alex Sanchez; author and SCBWI-IL RA Esther Hershenhorn; author Bobbi Katz; Newbery author Joan Bauer; and editor Caitlyn Dlouhy.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Teen Titans #21

Fair warning: Did you read Greg's "geeked out" post about Star Trek? That was nothing. Buckle up.

This week's Teen Titans, #21, which is published by DC comics, shows that Cyborg has stocked Speedy's new room at Titans Tower with books. She remarks that Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes and Speak (titles shown on spine, authors not mentioned) are among her favorites.

Mia, the new Speedy, has only recently taken on the helm of that hero, which was established by Green Arrow's original sidekick Roy, who now goes by Arsenal (and is in The Outsiders with Nightwing, the original Robin). She used to live on the streets before she was taken in by GA and recently found out that she's HIV positive (see Green Arrow #44). Those of you who read spookycyn may recall that Green Arrow #47 was my favorite comic last week.

Once again, Mia's favorite books include Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow, 1993) and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (FSG, 1999). I'm not normally a fan of "product placement," but I'm making an exception as it was a delight to see a young hero reading literary YA.

Note: although this is TT #21, that's because it's a reboot. TT is a well-established comic, which has a spinoff TV show on The Cartoon Channel (though the characters vary between the book and show. Cyborg, for example, is in both, but so far, Speedy isn't).

Cynsational Links

The Chris Crutcher Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center (includes links to numerous resources).

Author Profile: Laurie Halse Anderson from An author interview. See also Mad Woman in the Forest: Laurie Halse Anderson's blog.

See also Getting Graphic: Using Graphic Novels To Promote Literacy With PreTeens and Teens by Michele Gorman (Linworth, 2003). Note: Michele is a Austin YA public librarian. Greg and I recently spoke with her at the Montgomery County Teen Festival.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jewish Stars: Recommended Books With Jewish Themes for Schools and Libraries

Jewish Stars: Recommended Books With Jewish Themes for Schools and Libraries (PDF format) is now available on the Web site of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL), free for downloading.

This new, annotated bibliography will enable teachers, librarians, and parents identify and recommend books that will help children learn about the Jewish religion, culture, history, Israel, and contemporary Jewish life.

The twenty-nine page bibliography includes more than 200 titles appropriate for public school, public library, and other general collections and are accessible to readers with limited knowledge of Judaism.

The bibliography is organized by topic: Basic Judaism & Other Religions; Jewish Biographies; Contemporary Jewish Life; Jewish Folklore; Jewish History; Jewish Holidays; Israel; Jewish Life Cycle Events; and World War II and The Holocaust. Each topic is divided by age level. A list of Web resources, review publications, conferences, and other resources also is included.

The editors plan to update the bibliography annually with new titles, as well as other additions and corrections.

Note: edited from the AJL news release; likely a great writer resource, too.

Cynsational Links

Mary Margaret's blog: written from the point of view of Mary Margaret from Mary Margaret And The Perfect Pet Plan by Christine Kole MacLean (Dutton, 2004). A cute idea, well executed! Also don't miss Christine's resources and inspiration page, including the link to What To Expect When You Get Published from literary agent Jenny Bent.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Post Valentine's Day

What I gave my husband for Valentine's Day: variety pack cake donuts from Krispy Kreme and a card from BookPeople.

What he reciprocated with: dinner at home. Caviar salad (caviar (the budget kind), heart of palm, tomato, cottage cheese) and lobster with turkey, sauce, and broccoli spears, followed by dark-chocolate covered strawberries.

It was a gorgeous day, in the low 80s and sunny. I also dropped off a gift for a friend and a couple of recommendation letters for booksellers who've been nominated for awards. Also, I finished my rough draft of a new YA novel.

The mail included news of a book, Red Ridin' In The Hood And Other Cuentos by debut author Patricia Santos Marcantonio, illustrated by Renato Alarcao (FSG, 2005), which appears to be a fractured fairy tale. By the way, FSG has the most marvelous marketing person. If you're a writer researching publishers, please note that the house does a lovely job with publicity.

I also received a copy of Cecilia's Year by Susan & Denise Gonzales Abraham (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004). It's a historical 'tweener novel, set in the 1930s in New Mexico.

Cynsational News & Links

Tonight join YA authors Libba Bray (A Great And Terrible Beauty), A.M. Jenkins (Damage), Catherine Atkins (Alt Ed), Mary E. Pearson (A Room On Lorelei Street) at 8:30 EST (7:30 Central) as they kick off a discussion with other YA writers and readers about point of view. Go to the YA Authors Cafe and click the chatroom icon. See also: A Conversation with Libba Bray by Claire E. White from Writers Write; Award-Winning Author A.M. Jenkins by Sue Reichard at; Preview Interview: Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins from Preview Magazine; and visit Mary E. Pearson's Web site.

Interview with Tim Travaglini, editor, Walker & Company from Robin Friedman Interviews With Editors. More information about Walker, which as I was just mentioning, has been coming on strong lately. Robin Friedman's site also offers interviews with other editors, including: Victoria Wells Arms, editorial director at Bloomsbury; Margery Cuyler, editorial director at Cavendish; and Amy Hsu, Greg's editor at Little Brown, among others. Insights from great minds at top-notch houses; a don't-miss site for those researching for submissions. Robin Friedman is the author of A Silent Witness (Houghton Mifflin, 2005) and How I Survived My Summer Vacation And Lived To Tell The Story (Cricket, 2000). Learn more about Robin, and check out her Writing Secrets.

Jacqueline Jules: official site of the author of Noah And The Ziz, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn (Kar-Ben, 2005); The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story; and Once Upon A Shabbos, (all of which have the same publisher and illustrator), among others. The Hardest Word was named a Notable Book For Young Readers by the Association of Jewish Libraries and a National Jewish Book Award finalist in 1991. Site offers extensive activities.

E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List, blogs about how Live Journal folks can add non-LJ blogs (like hers and mine) to their friends' list; see the Feb. 14 post.

Mad Woman In The Forest: Mumbles, Mutters, Shrieks: features some Q&A between high school students and Laurie Halse Anderson; see the Feb. 15 post.

Illustrator Don Tate's blog introduces blogs by fellow Texas illustrators Trevor Romain and Roz Fulcher, which is how I found out about the Children's Illustrator Blog Ring.

"You keep writing because you love the process," she [Katherine Paterson] said. "It's the most rewarding part. You can never make enough money, never win enough prizes to satisfy you.

"The best reward is being able to create a world, create people that other people care about."*

*linked from ACHUKA.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

I received a Valentine card from Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story Of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005). It features an illustration by author/illustrator Kevin Henkes. Anne also brought me some chocolate kitties from Dr. Chocolate.

How sweet is that?

Speaking of sweet, I would like to send out Valentine's Day greetings to my very cute husband, author Greg Leitich Smith!

But back to the books! I also wanted to mention that author Niki Burnham writes teen romance, and her titles include Royally Jacked (Simon Pulse, 2004), a recent Quick Pick, and Spin Control (Simon Pulse, 2004). Read an excerpt of Spin Control.

And for younger readers, check out The Legend Of The Valentine by Katherine Grace Bond, illustrated by Don Tate (Zondervan, 2002)--not just for Valentine's Day but still a timely title.

Cynsational Links

Rosemary Graham: new Web site from the author of Thou Shall Not Dump The Skater Dude (And Other Commandments I Have Broken) and My Not-So-Terrible Time at the Hippie Hotel, both published by Viking. Check in to The Hippie Hotel (seriously cool book site) and read an excerpt of Thou Shall Not, coming in fall 2005.

An Interview With Graham Marks from ACHUKA Children's Books. See also the ACHUKA archive for more interview with authors like Dian Curtis Regan (1997); Sharon Creech (1998), Philip Pullman (1998); David Almond (1999); Joan Bauer (1999); Diana Wynne Jones (2000); and more! Note: I first met Dian Curtis Regan online and then at the SCBWI National Conference in L.A.; I remember her as being incredibly kind and nurturing to a wide-eyed newcomer. Today, we're friends, and I'm glad she's living in Wichita, where I can sometimes visit her, her cat Gracie, and her 100 walruses (really!).

Mugging The Muse: Writing Fiction for Love and Money by Holly Lilse (an electronic book available for free via PDF or zip (scroll to "free stuff" format).

teenlibrarian: new blog; also see the Web site.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Read It Again, Cyn

I read a lot. Because I love it. To keep up with the industry. To keep up with my author/illustrator friends. To keep my Web site and this blog updated.

Something I've noticed over the years is how much I bring to the process. Many books I've set down because I just couldn't get into them or because they seemed "slight" take on a whole new appeal at a second or even third glance. Sometimes I'm just tired or cranky or the story hits too close to home.

If something doesn't strike me right away, I slip it back in the to-be-read pile. I figure if people deserve opportunities to redeem themselves, so do books. After all, it might be just me.

Nifty Links

Deanne Durett: Non-Fiction Pro: an author interview by Sue Reichard from Writing For Children at

Writing For Children at also features previous recent interviews with Janice Levy, Avi, Susan Albert, Max Anderson, Amanda Jenkins, Vicki Cobb, Chris Crutcher, Sue Bradford Edwards, Jeanne DuPrau, Tanya Lee Stone, Simon Rose, Toni Buzzeo, Michelle Stimpson, Jane Kurtz, Frances Dowell, Susanna Reich, Wendie Old, Kathleen Duey, Suzanne Lieurance. Archived interviews include: Kezi Matthews, Jennifer Armstrong, Dottie Enderle, April Pulley Sayre, Kelly Milner Halls, Linda Joy Singleton, and Verla Kay.

2005 Orbis Pictus Award Winner And Honor Books for non-fiction picture books from NCTE. Also features eight recommended titles.

Random Readings from Greg's blog about books we've recently read and loved, including Naming Maya by Uma Krishnaswami. See The Story Behind The Story: Naming Maya from Uma's Web site and a booktalk from Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple. Also, at the top of Uma's site, there is a lizard. Find out why.

Sketches of the 2005 SCBWI Mid-Winter Conference in New York City from Ruth McNally Barshaw. Next best thing to being there!

Note: the Walker catalog is looking better all the time, both in terms of the list and the design. I look forward to reading (among others): Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude by Kevin O'Malley, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto (Walker, 2005); Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Walker, 2005)(also don't miss Krull's recent A Woman For President); and Shelf Life by Robert Corbet (Walker, 2005). Read a sample chapter of Shelf Life.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Nominees For The Edgar Allen Poe Awards 2005

The Edgar Allen Poe Awards for best mysteries are sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. Winners will be announced at the 59th Galla Banquet in New York on April 28. See the complete list of finalists. See also nifty links below for more on the nominees and their books.


Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (Scholastic)

Assassin: The Lady Of Grace Mysteries by Patricia Finney (Delacorte)

Abduction! by Peg Kehret (Dutton)

Looking For Bobowicz by Daniel Pinkwater (HarperCollins)

The Unseen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Delacorte)

Young Adult

Story Time by Edward Bloor (Harcourt)

In Darkness, Death by by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Philomel)

Jude by Kate Morgenroth (Simon & Schuster)

The Book Of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick (Wendy Lamb)

Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly (David Fickling Books)

Notes: (1) my favorite Edgar books include Lily's Ghost by Laura Ruby (Harper, 2003); (2) Greg, who blogged today about "Star Trek," was just reading Chasing Vermeer; (3) mystery fans should also check out the YA novel Double Helix (Dial, 2004) by Nancy Werlin, which was an SLJ Best Book of 2004, an ALA Booklist editor's choice for 2004, and a Top 10 Mystery for Teens (Nancy already won an Edgar for The Killer's Cousin (Delacorte, 1998)).

Nifty Links

Interview With Edward Bloor, author of Story Time: from Harcourt Brace.

Mystery At The Museum: Blue Balliett's beguiling tale makes children think twice about art by Linda M. Castellitto from BookPage. Note: Blue Balliett was also award the 2004 Chicago Tribune Prize.

Looking For Bobowicz by Daniel Pinkwater: an NPR interview available online. See also the Looking For Bobowicz Accessories available at Cafe Press.

Lee Weatherly: Author Profile: interview from The Word Pool.

Note: thanks to "girl uninterrupted" AKA Author Laura M. Zeises for blogging about my blog.

Friday, February 11, 2005

AchUKa: Children's Books Web Site

Louder by Peni Griffin, an opinion column, from AchUKa children's books. Peni is the author of numerous novels for young readers, most recently 11,000 Years Lost (Abrams, 2004), which is a middle grade time-travel adventure set in Texas. Involves very cool mammoths. By the way, Peni is also the person who first turned me on to The X-Files. She lives in nearby San Antonio.

AchUKa also offers a blog from editor Michael Thorn, featuring much news about the children's/YA book world. An article caught my eye...

"Chick lit" for teen readers comes of age by Kristin Finan from the Feb. 9 Houston Chronicle (emphasis on mass market; no mention of literary YA).

Writer Internet Lists, Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest

Writer e-lists are a great professional boon and/or distraction from one's work.

I'm a fast reader, so it doesn't take much of my time to skim my lists and respond to those topics of particular interest. They've introduced me to many of my favorite fellow authors, and I've learned a great deal about the publishing side of children's/YA literature.

If participating doesn't distract you from your writing, I recommend joining. My only caution is the same one that applies to industry functions called "dinners" or "receptions" or "luncheons" or "conferences."

You may be out with your friends and you should be having fun, but you're still in a professional context. Children's/YA publishing is a small community. To the extent possible, sidestep flame wars. Stay professional. It can be too easy when sitting in front of a computer screen to forget there's a person (or 1,000) on the other end.

Nifty Links

Children's Writer: an open-membership e-list. Children's Writer was the first writing e-list I ever joined. It was through this list that I met a number of my friends, including one of my early mentors Jane Kurtz. Jane later invited me to join an invitation-only list of more established writers and it was there that I first met my agent.

Children's Writing Biz: an e-list moderated by author Anastasia Suen.

Nancy Miller Illustrator: a portfolio site. I received an email from Nancy requesting a link from my site, but she's not (yet) published. However, her work is great. Especially if you're an illustrator, editor, or art director, surf over and see what I'm talking about.

Ursula Nordstrom Fiction Contest: sponsored by HarperCollins and "open to U.S. writers over the age of 21 who have not been previously published. One winner will receive a book contract for a hardcover edition, a $7,500 advance, and a $1,500 cash award." Submission dates are March 15 to April 15. The award will be announced June 15. See link for rules and more information.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

2005 Texas 2 X 2 List

Congratulations to debut author Varsha Bajaj on her picture book, How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight?, illustrated by Ivan Bates, (Little Brown, 2004), making the 2005 Texas 2 X 2 reading list for great books for ages two through second grade.

Cheers also to author Lisa Wheeler, whose Te Amo Bebe/Little One, illustated by Maribel Suarez (Little Brown, 2004) also made the list.

Varsha was a star student in a children's writing class I taught with authors Kathi Appelt and Debbie Leland. Lisa is a friend from an e-list serv. See also: Interview with humorous picture book writer Lisa Wheeler from Debbi Michiko Florence's Web site.

Nifty Links

The Sixteenth Annual Celebration of Children's Literature will be held Sat., April 16 from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at Montgomery College in Germantown. Speakers will include: author/illustrator Jerry Pinkney; author Gloria Pinkney; editorial director and Philomel VP Patricia Lee Gauch; and author Joseph Lekuton (author of Facing The Lion, "an autobiography that details his life from Maasi warrior in Kenya to middle school social studies teacher in Virginia." Writer and illustrator critiques are available for an additional fee. See also: Interview With Jerry and Gloria Pinkney (BookPage, 1992).

Note: when I was a newbie author, I signed simultaneously with Jerry Pinkney. He was across the booth at NCTE, and I was too star struck to know what to do. Should I go introduce myself? What do I say? What if I lose all power of speech? He looks up, beams a bright smile, and then bustles over to me! Hand outstretched. "So nice to meet you!" Lovely man.

Starting Your Own Critique Group by Margot Finke (part three of three) from The Purple Crayon.

Take Our Word For It: The Only Weekly Word-origin Webzine from the Institute for Etymological Research.

The First Lady Of Wisconsin

I received an email yesterday from the office of the First Lady of Wisconsin, Jessica Doyle, saying that my short-story chapter book, Indian Shoes (Harper, 2002)(ages 7-up), will be a featured intermediate title for Read On Wisconsin! (an online statewide book club).

Why not surf on over and learn about their featured titles from February and before?

A few of my favorites include: Did You Hear The Wind Sing Your Name: An Oneida Song of Spring by Sandra De Coteau Orie (featured this month for preschool); Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O'Connell (featured in September for infants); Toddler Two/Dos Anos by Anastasia Suen (featured in October for infants); Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo (featured in October for primary); Wings by Christopher A. Myers (featured in December/January for primary); Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki (featured in November for intermediate); When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (featured in October for middle school); The Heart Of A Chief by Joseph Bruchac (featured in December/January for middle school); and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (featured in September for high school).


The National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature offers the exhibit "Paul O. Zelinksy: Angels to Ogres" through February 19. The works of N.C. Wyeth will debut March 5.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today I was supposed to go to lunch with author Dianna Hutts Aston at Green Pastures, but I had to cancel because of being sick. Sigh.

In any case, Dianna's recent titles include When You Were Born, illustrated by Caldecott-honor-winner E.B. Lewis (Candlewick, 2004)--my favorite birthday picture book. By the way, both author and illustrator have these cool swish movie things as their sites open.

Thanks to everyone for all their get-well wishes. You'll be happy to know I'm indulging in much television and became misty-eyed at a re-run of the episode of "A Different World" wherein Whitley and Dwayne get married. Yes, I'm a giant cheeseball.

Nifty Links

Judy and Ronald Culp: a husband-wife writing team I met while speaking for the League of Texas Writers. Judy has a very promising YA novel in progress, and I wish her the best with it!

Chinese American Librarians Association: an affiliate of the American Library Association.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Chinese New Year from Find out your classroom's Chinese Zodiac sign. Get storytime suggestions and more!

See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney

See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004). Bridget has been raised a Traveler, leading the life in trailer after trailer, city after city, with her friends and family--no roots, little school, running scams, casing pigeons, hearing the pros and cons of a really big score. At 16, she's already engaged, and her older brother Jimmy is enamored with the idea of following in Big Jim's footsteps to pull in huge money. It's a culture within the culture, with its own rules and (sometimes sexist) norms. It's the life. But is it the life for Bridget? Ages 12-up.

My Thoughts

The voice is engaging and intriguing, the characters fully realized. Given her point of view, I understood Bridget's choices, even when I didn't agree with them. A wonderful, compelling read.

I've been wanting to read this title for some time. It was a winner of the 2001 SCBWI Judy Blume/Work-In-Progress Grant for a Contemporary Novel for Young People and the 2002 PEN/New England Children's Book Caucus Discovery Award. More recently it was named to the 2005 BBYA list.

Nifty Links

Author Jacqueline Davies now offers teacher guides for her award-winning books, Where The Ground Meets The Sky (Cavendish) and The Boy Who Drew Birds: The Story Of John James Audubon (Houghton Mifflin).

Where The Ground Meets The Sky (ages 10-14) was an NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, an IRA/CBC Children's Award Notable Book For Fiction/Intermediate, and named to the Bank Street Best Children's Books list among other honors.

The Boy Who Drew Birds was a Junior Library Guild selection and an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 in 2005. It also has been selected for the New York Public Library's Best Books for 2004 list.

Adria's Book Nook: Adria recommends books she's loved and read with her little sister Louisa. How charming is that? By the way, these girls are the daughters of author Haemi Balgassi. As in apple. Tree. Not far falling.