Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Author Interview: Mary E. Pearson on A Room On Lorelei Street

A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005). Zoe, 17, has had it with her alcoholic mother and manipulative grandmother. She moves out of the house and rents a room on Lorelei Street in hopes of a new start. But ghosts, living and dead, swirl around Zoe, trying to tug her back, and it's hard making ends meet as a diner waitress. Zoe's new landlady, Opal, has a fresh, hopeful perspective, but ultimately, Zoe's uncertain future rests in her own hands. Ages 12-up. Highly recommended. (See more of my thoughts on this novel).

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

A book takes a long time to write, often years, so along the way a lot of inspirations intervene and help the story unfold, but first and foremost I heard the opening lines and got a sense of a character with heavy weight pressing down on her. From there I just listened.

I didn’t realize it as I was writing it, but looking back I can see that A Room on Lorelei Street is clearly a survival story. I had written a story about a girl who was being hit from all sides, over and over again, and you have to wonder if she will make it.

This story began on the heels of a rough period of my life. A serious illness in my family had brought my world to a grinding halt. For months I couldn’t write, but then when it finally seemed that things were going to be okay and I decided it was time to begin writing again, I had a new found sense of writing the truth at all costs.

I began A Room on Lorelei Street, wanting to explore life’s inequities and also the incredible iron bonds of family. But then during the course of writing the book, another dark veil fell, my mother was diagnosed as terminal and I had to set my story aside again as I cared for her in her last few months of life.

When I returned to the story, I was basically shell-shocked, much as Zoe was at that point of the story. What else could happen?

I think at that point, I decided Zoe had to make it–I needed her to make it–but honestly, I still wasn’t sure she would. This was not a story I planned; this was a story where I listened page by page and I came to know Zoe as well as I know anyone. Usually when you think of survival stories you think of wilderness stories, or medical stories, but there is a “falling through the cracks” kind of survival that happens everyday right beneath our noses, but gets little fanfare. Zoe’s story is such a survival story.

Other little inspirations also rubbed up against each other to make A Room on Lorelei Street happen . . .

As a small child I always passed a street on my way to school called “Lorelei Street.” I thought the name was so pretty–much prettier than my own “Bellflower”–and I always imagined what it would be like to live on Lorelei Street.

I am fascinated with names and what they mean. I came across “Zoe” and its meaning, “full of life,” and I imagined a character and why someone might name her that and what she might have to live up to. The name gave me a lot of insights into the father of the story, even though he isn’t actually even in the book.

In a similar vein, after I had begun writing A Room on Lorelei Street, I realized I didn’t know what “Lorelei”* meant so I looked it up. It was one of those goose bump writerly moments. The meaning hints of seduction and ruin–exactly what it would become for Zoe. It seemed like fate that I would choose that name.

As a writer I really enjoy exploring gray areas–right and wrong is often a matter of time and perspective. In A Room on Lorelei Street, we see many flawed characters, perhaps each with a similar goal, but with very different ways of achieving it. Most notably, Zoe and her grandmother seem at complete odds, and yet they both love Mama, and want the family to “survive,” but in different ways.

The story of course, is from Zoe’s perspective, but a few times I open a window where the reader can see the struggling or tender side of the grandmother too. Even the “sleazebag” has his own story, and Zoe at one point reflects on this, that he only wants to be “acknowledged.” The world is not black and white, so A Room on Lorelei Street gave me a lot of opportunities to explore the volume of the world’s gray.

I am amazed at the iron bonds of family. No matter how difficult or awful someone can be, when they are “blood” we never can quite cut the ties that hold us together. Family is always family. In A Room on Lorelei Street, Zoe had to learn how to reconcile this loyalty with the need for her own survival.

Becoming a parent means putting all of your needs, wants, and indulgences, in a backseat to your children’s. At least that is what I believe. Kids only get one chance to be kids. And yet from time to time, I have seen parents who refuse to grow up, accept responsibility, and they fritter away their own child’s precious growing up years. Because the parent refuses to grow up, they make their own child grow up too soon. It angers me, and I wanted to explore that in A Room on Lorelei Street. Similarly, I have seen parents who find their children to be an amusing hobby, but once the novelty wears off, the kids are on their own. That angers me, too. A little bit of outrage is always good fuel for a book.

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

Ha! Well, I think I already mentioned the major events. I wrote the first opening lines in December of 2000 and finished the rough draft in July of 2002. Of course, then it went out for critiques with my friends and the many revisions began. It was a long process, needless to say.

What were the challenges in bringing it to life?

My challenges were very much like any writer’s challenges. To keep going for one thing. There were lots of times I thought about quitting. Writing is hard work. There are no guarantees. No road map. And at times–especially in the middle–you feel utterly lost. The challenge is to keep going, even when you aren’t sure of the way.

E.B White said that “Writing itself is an act of faith, and nothing else” and that pretty much says it all. You keep writing because you believe in something. It’s a gauzy intangible drive that whispers to you, keep going, and you do in spite of your doubts and fears. And when you finally have a completed novel, it feels like nothing less than a miracle.

More On A Room On Lorelei Street

Visit Mary E. Pearson's blog, her Web site page on A Room On Lorelei Street (with prepublication chatter, award nominations, etc.), and check out the teacher's guide for the novel from Henry Holt (guide is PDF file). More Cynsational thoughts on A Room On Lorelei Street.

More Recent Interviews

Vivian Vande Velde on Companions of the Night (Harcourt, 1995) and Being Dead (Harcourt, 2001); Laura Ruby on Lily's Ghosts (HarperCollins, 2003); Anne Bustard on Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005); Kathi Appelt and Joy Fisher Hein on Miss Ladybird's Flowers: How A First Lady Changed America; Elisa Carbone on Last Dance On Holladay Street (Knopf, 2005); Greg Leitich Smith on Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003); and Holly Black on Tithe: A Modern Faeire Tale (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

Cynsational News & Links

Authors and Animals are a Winning Team by Francine Silverman from OnceWritten.com: The Source for New and Emerging Authors. See more articles from the site on promotion, publication, tax deductions, queries, niches and more.

Kindling Words 2006 will be Jan. 26 to 29. Note: "Kindling Words is a gathering for published authors, illustrators, and working editors and agents in the field of children's books. To register, your publishing house must be recognized by the Children's Book Council." At the very least check out the gorgeous new KW Web site, designed by author/illustrator Janie Bynum.

Remember yesterday when I was talking about the auction at Brenda Novak's site so you could bid on Niki Burnham's books? One of the items available for bid (today only!) is a reading of a children's manuscript by editor Arthur Levine of Scholastic. Read a conversation with Arthur Levine from The Purple Crayon. Visit Arthur A. Levine Books.

Check out some Austin talents: illustrator Theresa Bayer, illustator Laura Logan, and author Janet Kaderli. Tell 'em Cyn sent you!

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bid on Books by Niki Burnham

YA romance author Niki Burnham (who also also writes for adults as Nicole Burnham) announces that autographed copies of her (grown-up) San Rimi series, featuring the diTalora family, and her debut YA novel, Royally Jacked (Simon & Schuster, 2004), are available for bids at Brenda Novak's site. Brenda is hosting an online auction, with 100% of proceeds going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. See the "gift baskets" category by tomorrow, May 31.

note: Nic and I went to The University of Michigan Law School together where we were great pals, and we later stood up in each other's weddings. I'm so thrilled about all of her success!

Memorial Day

The Bug Cemetery by Frances Hill, illustrated by Vera Rosenberry (Henry Holt, 2002) is possibly the best cycle-of-life picture book for young readers, ages 4-up. Highly recommended.

Greg and I are still entertaining guests here. Today, we're heading to Zilker Botanical Garden.

Cynsational Links

"If Things Look Bad, Don't Fret. Take Action." by Steve Young, guest columnist for the L.A. Daily News. Not about writing per se but rather weathering storms. See Steve's blog.

"Rating Your Rejections (Or What The Heck Did That Editor Mean?)" by Linda Joy Singleton from author Verla Kay's Web site. See Linda Joy's blog.

notes: (1) Steve, Linda Joy, and Verla all are members of the childrens-writers list at yahoogroups.com; (2) Frances is married to Brian Yansky, YA author of My Road Trip To The Pretty Girl Capital of the World (Cricket Books, 2003). They live in Austin with a sweet dog named "Max" and a cranky kitty aptly named "Chaos."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

New Books

I'm busy entertaining my brother-in-law and his wife from Seattle. Yesterday, we went to The Oasis, and today we went to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. So, I only have one...

Cynsational Link

A Batch Of New Books For Kids by Janis Campbell from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Particular congrats go out to my pal, author Shutta Crum!

P.S. the book I'm reading right now is The Meanest Girl by Debora Allie (Roaring Brook, 2005).

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Memorial Day Weekend: Books About Grief and Healing

This Memorial Day weekend, I'm remembering my dad, my uncle Gary, my grandpa Clifford,* my great aunts Nannie and Mary and Etta, my great grandma Bessie, my step-grandpa Herb, my grandpa Ray, my great-grandpa Red (Ernest), and my great uncle Dutch.

Grief/healing books that I recommend include: The Color of Absence: 12 Stories About Loss and Hope edited by James Howe (Atheneum, 2001) and This Book Is For All Kids, But Especially My Sister Libby. Libby Died. by Jack Simon, illustrated by Annette Simon (Idea University Press, 2000)(link includes interview with Annette).

I've written a grief/healing book myself, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001), which has generated a lot of email from 'tween girls who've lost a friend. I'm honored that they found some comfort in Rain's story.

*Grampa Clifford has a walk on in my short story "The Naked Truth," from In My Grandmother's House: Award-Winning Authors Tell Stories About The Grandmothers, edited and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (HarperCollins, 2003).

Cynsational News & Links

2005 Texas Book Festival Author List Released from Austin360.com. Note, though, the subhead "confirmed at this time." I'm not recognizing any children's/YA author/illustrator names, so unless our section of the program has been cut (which I doubt), that announcement is still forthcoming.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Pannell Winners Announced

BookPeople in my current hometown of Austin, Texas and Reading Reptile Books and Toys for Young Mammals in my original hometown of Kansas City are winners of the Lucile Micheels Pannell Award for Excellent in Children's Bookselling, given by the Women's National Book Association.

Congratulations to Austin's Jill Bailey,* who today is celebrating her last day at BookPeople! She will be missed at the store but still a vibrant part of Austin's sparkling children's/YA literature scene.

(Because I can't help bragging, I also remind cynsational readers that BookPeople was just named the Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year for 2005).

*Jill is the third Austinite to win this award, following Anne Bustard (formerly of Toad Hall; now author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005) and Tiffany Durham (also formerly of Toad Hall).

Cynsational News & Links

Promote Your Books Like A Pro and Create A Bestseller: a resource Web site whose title neatly explains its purpose.

In Margot's Writing Chat for All Seasons, see: Writing Query Letters That Work; Lousy Rejection Letters; and the complete text from published authors in Margot's May Musings on The Secret to Becoming A Published Writer (including my own contribution).

Thanks to Colorado librarian Melissa Depper, I have massively updated my listing of U.S. and Canadian regional and national awards for children's/YA books. The URL may change with the site redesign, but I'll keep you posted on that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Role Models; Chat With Gordon Korman

I'm big on role models.

I have the obvious ones of course: Wonder Woman, Batgirl/Oracle, Eartha Kitt, Rupert Giles, my great aunt Anne (to whom I dedicated Jingle Dancer).

But I also always have a couple in this writing life. I find it helps me to know there's a specific real person out there. Author Nancy Werlin is my current "art/publishing" role model because of the consistent quality of her work and the professionalism with which she conducts herself. Author Laurie Halse Anderson is my "whole person" role model, also because of the consistent quality of her work/pro behavior, along with how happy she seems (from what I can bleam (blog+gleam) from her LJ).

Last night, I stopped by the chat with Gordon Korman, author of Son Of The Mob and No More Dead Dogs, hosted by Debby Garfinkle at the YA Authors Cafe. She asked him a myriad of questions about writing and about writing humor in particular. I'll be sure to post a link to the chat transcript when it becomes available. If you've never been to one of these chats before, make the effort. They're inspirational, informative, and a lot of fun!

Cynsational News & Links

Gordon Korman Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center.

Why Couldn't Snow White Have Been Chinese? Finding Identity Through Children's Books by Grace Lin from papertigers.org.

In response to my post yesterday on how Writers Must Read, Debbi Michiko Florence sent the URL to her 2005 reading list.

For those of you on LJ, illustrator Don Tate asked me about writing characters different from myself in response to my Fan Mail post. For those interested in writing crossculturally, crossorientation, crosswhatever, see the comments section (scroll to read).

Check out the recommendation for Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler on Liz B's blog, A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy (May 20 post).

Also you must read the 2005 winning entries for the Letters about Literature contest sponsored by the California Center for the Book. Selected books include: The Truth about Sparrows; The Secret Garden; The Tale of Desperaux; Ella Enchanted; Number The Stars; Because of Winn-Dixie; Holes; Bridge to Terabithia; and Dreamland. If I had written such a letter at that age, I would've chosen The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spear.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Writers Must Read

I have no idea how anyone who isn't well read expects to write well.

Reading counts as writing time. It is also the best, most painless way to improve your craft.

From now on, I'm going to start opening conversations with beginners with "what children's/YA books have you read lately?" I'm going to work the question more into speeches, too.

Thinking about it, the major writing publications, workshops, etc. don't sufficiently center on reading either. Hm.

You know which author does a particularly great job of talking about reading?

Linda Sue Park, and she's doing quite well these day.

Another one?

Esmé Raji Codell, and she has a whole planet named after her.

Okay, practicing what I preach: What children's/YA books have you read lately?

So far this year, I've read (and recommended):*

Young Adult: Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2005); Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl by D.L. Garfinkle (Putnam, 2005); Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004); Out Of Order by A.M. Jenkins (HarperTempest, 2003); See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney (Knopf, 2004); Comfort by Carolee Dean (Houghton Mifflin, 2002); A Room On Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005); Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young And Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson, introduction by Oscar Hijuelos (Henry Holt, 2005); The Boyfriend List (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, ruby oliver) by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2005)(Listening Library, 2005); Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005); Stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (Atheneum, 2005); Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone (HarperCollins, 2005); Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2005); Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, 2005); Over and Over You by Amy McAuley (Roaring Brook, 2005); Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories For Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005); Don't Die, Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton (Llewellyn, 2004).

Tweener: Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005)(see author interview); Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb Books, 2005); Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly (David Fickling, 2004).

Middle Grade: Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005); Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005); Sketches From A Spy Tree by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005).

Picture Books: The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa 'Kashtyaa'tsi Hiyaani by Simon J. Ortiz, illustrated by Michael Lacapa (The University of Arizona Press, 2004), Buddy: The Story Of Buddy Holly by Anne Bustard (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(link features interview with author); Hotel Deep: Light Verse From Dark Water by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2005); Searching For Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Harcourt, 2005); Looking For Uncle Louie On The Fourth Of July by Kathy Whitehead, illustrated by Pablo Torrecilla (Boyds Mills Press, 2005); Night Wonders by Jane Peddicord (Charlesbridge, 2005); Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein (HarperCollins, 2005)(link features interview with author and illustrator); Once Upon A Cool Motorcycle Dude written and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, illustrated by Carol Heyer, illustrated by Scott Goto (Walker, 2005); Houdini: World's Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Walker, 2005).

Resource Books: Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults by Jeanette Larson (Linworth, 2004).

Additional Interviews: Holly Black on Tithe: A Modern Faeire Tale (Simon & Schuster, 2002); Greg Leitich Smith on Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003); Laura Ruby on Lily's Ghosts (HarperCollins, 2003); Vivian Vande Velde on Being Dead (Harcourt, 2001) and Companions of the Night (Harcourt, 1995).

*books that I read and recommend comprise about 1/10 of the total books I read. This year I've read about 10 times as many books as are listed above.

Cynsational News & Links

Speaking of Newbery winner Linda Sue Park, her new books are a contemporary middle grade novel, Project Mulberry (Clarion, 2005)(read Greg's blog about this novel), and a picture book, What Does Bunny See? (Clarion, 2005). And speaking of Madame Esmé, her latest are Diary of a Fairy Godmother (Hyperion, 2005) and Sing A Song of Tuna Fish (Hyperion, 2004).

Reinventing the World One Reader At A Time: An Interview with Author/Advocate Esmé Raji Codell by Deborah Wiles from BookPage (June 2003).

Linda Sue Park: Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center.

I'm blogging lately on spookycyn about the "Desperate Housewives" season finale, complete with its (allegedly) children's book illustrator character.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez

Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2005). It's the summer before college and Jason, who made national news when he came out to his coach and basketball team, has been asked to travel across the country to speak at the opening of a high school for gay and lesbian teens in Los Angeles. Jason's boyfriend, Kyle, and Kyle's best friend, Nelson, decide to come along for the ride on a road trip that will lead them to new people, new experiences, and most of all, themselves. Funny, touching, illuminating, romantic, and thoughtful. Despite its depth, a quick read perfect for summer. Ages 12-up. Don't miss companion novels Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High.

More on Rainbow Road

Rainbow Road reminds me of those old on-the-road movies and other traveling YA books like My Road Trip To The Pretty Girl Capital of the World by Brian Yansky (Cricket, 2003).

Actually, in both My Road Trip and Rainbow Road, the characters spend time here in Austin, which is fun for me and both offer an illuminating look at the city. Brian lives here, Alex used to, and they spoke together at the last Texas Book Festival. (In the interests of full disclosure and restaurant recommendations, I should probably mention that we all went out for barbecue at Hoover's Cooking, which is near East, afterward).

For those who are fans of the Rainbow books, I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I was thrilled with Nelson's character arc in this last installment.

See also an author profile of Alex from Teenreads.com; Wordsmith: Alex Sanchez, author of young adult fiction by Ove Overmyer from The Empty Closet (December, 2004); An Interview With Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys, from ALAN review. Another interview with Alex is available on CLSCLR; because the site is under redesign, use the search engine.

Cynsational News & Links

Summer Reading Extravaganza: Fifty summer-themed titles, beach reads, and other books for vacation reading from CBC member publishers.

Do As I Do: Teachers Who Read Children's Books by June Locke from Book Links. Includes suggestions for teachers and librarians. A PDF file. See also Affirming African American Boys by KaaVonia Hinton, also a PDF file from Book Links.

Author Gail Giles blogs lately about Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won the Girl by D.L. Garfinkle (Putnam, 2005)(see my own comments) and A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2005)(see my own comments). Speaking of D.L. Garfinkle, a new (May 2005) interview with her has been posted at Young Adult Books Central.

Happy 40th birthday to Debbi Michiko Florence, and thanks to Debbi for her Random Act of Kindness!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tofu and T.Rex : Author Copies Arrive

Congratulations to my very cute husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, whose author copies of his second novel, Tofu and T.Rex (Little Brown, 2005) arrived yesterday.

The novel is a companion book to his award-winning debut, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003)(Recorded Books, 2004), and will be available for sale in July.

We had been told that the colors on the ARC wouldn't quite reflect those on the novel, and we're so pleased with the final results. That raised, glossy T.Rex really pops!

Read Interview With Debut Children's Novelist Greg Leitich Smith by Debbi Michiko Florence (updated November 2004); Author Interviews: Greg Leitich Smith from Downhome Books (October 2003); The Story Behind The Story: Greg Leitich Smith on Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo from CLSCLR; and Profile of Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith by Dianna Hutts Aston.

I also was pleased to receive my ARC of Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2005). It's the third book in the Rainbow trilogy, which included Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High. Alex lived in Austin as a child, and he spoke on a panel and TLA with Greg and me.

Cynsational News & Links

The NE/NC Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators presents its fall conference, "The Adventure Awaits," Sept. 24 at the Hilton Arlington in Arlington, Texas. Featured speakers include: Suzanne Nelson, Senior Editor, Scholastic Book Club Division; Catherine Frank, Editor, Viking; Robert Mayes, Editor, Farrar Straus Giroux; Patrick Collins, Creative Director, Henry Holt; Dian Curtis Regan, Keynote Speaker, author of many award-winning books for children including Ghost Twins, Monster of the Month Club, Chance, The Initiation, and Princess Nevermore. Note: Dian is one of my fave people in children's publishing, and Chance (Philomel, 2003) is one of my fave picture books. She (relatively) recently moved to one of my home states, Kansas.

"Critique Groups: From Water Wings to the High Dive" by Lisa Lawmaster Hess, in the Publishing Paths section of Writer's Support from the Institute of Children's Literature. See also the May 12 transcript of "Anything Goes, But What Does a Banned-Book Author Do Next?" an archived ICL chat with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Check out the Children's Literature Choice List for 2005.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Fan Mail

Yesterday, I was honored to receive a couple of letters from readers of "Riding With Rosa," a short story of mine that was published in the March/April 2005 issue of Cicada, a YA literary magazine, (p. 69, Vol. 7, No., 4).

Thematically, the story looks at the dynamic of a biracial boy, passing as white, and that of a gay boy, who's just been "outed," in a contemporary high school plagued by racism and homophobia. Though their personal circumstances are unique, the commonalities are explored.

The letters focussed on praising the sensitive portrayal of diversity of sexual orientation and the anti-bigotry subtext.

I write stories as stories first. I start with the character, consider his/her circumstances, etc. That's the literary writer's place. But certainly, it is gratifying when young readers say that my work challenged, enlightened or validated them.

Cynsational News & Links

Author Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, whose debut book (Sketches From A Sky Tree (Clarion, 2005)) I just recommended a few days ago, now has a debut blog, too. Surf over to Vaughn Zimmer to celebrate the launch, and shower Tracie with congratulations and good wishes.

Jacqueline Davies has added a few nifty PDF updates to her author Web site, including: (1) An Editorial Correspondence on The Boy Who Drew Birds between Jacqueline and Houghton Mifflin senior editor Ann Rider; (2) Booksignings: Stepping Into the Abyss. Note: the first took a while to download on my dial-up, but since I'm the last person in the world on dial-up, this probably applies only to me.

Building on Wednesday's news about the L.A. Times review and signing for A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield (HarperCollins, 2005), surf over to hear "Seeing Red," an interview with Amy about the book on "The Exchange" from New Hampshire public radio. Available on Real Audio or Windows Media. See also Amy's About the Book: Inspiration.

Inspired by One Writer's Journey, Debbi Michiko Florence's LJ (May 19 post), I found out my aura colors. They are: violet, green, and, to a lesser degree, yellow. Thanks for welcoming the newly syndicated spookycyn to LJ, Debbi!

Speaking of spookycyn, lately, I'm blogging about my ballgown & boots dream.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Ladies Who Lunch

I met Cyndi Hughes, former director of the Texas Book Festival turned literary agent/publicist, for lunch today at Green Pastures in South Austin.

Cyndi and I are both University of Kansas J-school graduates (AKA Jayhawks), so we have bonded on that and a book level.

Cynsational Links

Do As The Spider Does from Out of My Mind from Sharon A. Soffe. Some thoughts on generating writing ideas.

Check out the L.A. Times review of A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield (HarperCollins, 2005).

Surf over to spookycyn for my thoughts on dentistry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Texas Writers Month; spookycyndicated

Texans love all things Texan, and this month we love writers in particular.

It makes me feel important and appreciated. Woo woo!

I'm just back from my local indie bookstore, BookPeople (2005 Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year), and the staff was celebrating Texas Writers Month in style.

The fancy-schmancy table in the BookKids department featured: Too Many Frogs by Sandy Asher, illustrated by Austinite Keith Graves (Philomel, 2005); Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly by Austinite Anne Bustard, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(see related author interview); Night Wonders by Austinite Jane Peddicord (Charlesbridge, 2005); How To Do Homework Without Throwing Up by Austinite Trevor Romain (Free Spirit, 1997)(see Trevor's blog); Newbery and National Book Award winner Holes by Austinite Louis Sachar (FSG, 1998); Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Austinite Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2003); Both Sides Now by Austinite Ruth Pennebaker; The Puppeteer's Apprentice by former Austinite D. Anne Love (Margaret K. McElderry, 2003); 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by San Antonian Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow, 2002); Loony Little by Buda's Dianna Hutts Aston (Candlewick, 2003); Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by the late Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault; and Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Austinite Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001).

A quick shout out of other Texas writers to know: College Station's Kathi Appelt; Wimberly's Janie Bynum; Houston's Gail Giles; San Antonio's Peni R. Griffin; Amarillo's Kimberly Willis Holt; Dallas' Helen Ketteman; Canyon Lake's Tim Tingle; and Buda's Jerry Wermund. Too many more to mention, but perhaps you'll write in with some names.

Cynsational News & Links

Austin SCBWI has updated its member listings.

The brill Sharyn November has syndicated spookycyn for the thrills and chills of all of you LJ folks. Thanks Sharyn! For those of you unfamiliar with spookycyn, it's more personal, chatty, and reflective of my journey through works in progress. It’s also where I’m more likely to feature books and authors of, say, gothic fantasy or suspense. Recent posts have centered on: Friday, the 13th; Over and Over You by Amy McAuley (Roaring Brook, 2005); my upcoming gothic fantasy YA novel; Capricorns; Lex Luthor; and of course my ghost. Thanks, Sharyn!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Random Act Of Kindness

It's a tough time in publishing right now with school/library cutbacks, a contraction in the picture book market, and so forth.

So, today, I'd like to ask cynsations readers to perform one random act of kindness for another book person. A writer, illustrator, teacher, librarian, bookseller, publicist, young reader--whomever.

It doesn't have to be big or expense or dramatic, though it could be.

Send a card that says "thanks for all you do." Drop an email that says "by the way, great hair!" Rent out a billboard on I-35 cheering on every mama who read a bedtime story to her kid last night. Anything, everything, whatever!

Just do something positive!


Today, I'm deep in the midst of reading manuscripts and answering author profile interview questions with Greg for a fall issue (October or November) of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.

The books on my nightstand are: The Mother's Tongue by Heid E. Erdrich (sister of Louise Erdrich)(Salt Publishing, 2005) and Looking For Alaska by John Green (Dutton, 2005)(yes, I know everybody else has already read it).

Cynsational News & Links

How to Become Rich and Famous in One Easy Step (and other stuff that has nothing to do with making kids' books) by your pal Mo Willems from CBC Magazine.

Award-winning writer Jo Knowles debuts her Web site. I'm particularly fond of her FAQ, comprised of questions asked by her five-year-old son. Speaking of which, Batman can fly. He just needs to use a plane or other man-made invention to do so. What's special about superheroes like Batman (and, say, Green Arrow or Oracle) is that they are people with normal potential who pushed and trained themselves to do extraordinary things so they could protect others. Batman was not given the ability to fly; he had to earn it.

Author Gail Giles blogs about Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won The Girl by D.L. Garfinkle (Putnam, 2005) at The YA Novel and Me (see May 9 post). See what I had to say about Storky.

Author Ellen Jackson blogs about 10 Great Picture Books That Appeal to Boys.

And on May 11, author Tanya Lee Stone calls me "lovely," which I mention simply because it made me feel good.

Sketches from a Spy Tree, poems by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Andrew Glass

Sketches From A Spy Tree by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005). Sketches aren't only drawings on the page but also pictures formed by words. In this case, poems. An invitation... To step into Ann Marie's family portrait and snip out the father who snipped out some time ago himself, to find out what outsiders see in twins and what they're blind to, to appreciate a quilt of cats eating soft, greasy chicken meat from the spotted hands of an elderly lady, to meet a stepdad and a grouch, to shiver in the March winds, to take a chance on someone new...or two. At times funny, at others tender, a self-portrait of a young artist sure to win hearts and challenge minds. Ages 8-up. Read a related author interview, and note that both the author and illustrator are twins.

Cynsational Links

Austin children's illustrator Don Tate debuts his new blog, Devas T. Reads Kiddie Lit, with a discussion of My Father's Summers by Kathi Appelt (Henry Holt, 2004).

The Art of Fiction: Who Do You Love? by Lisa Lenard-Cook from Authorlink, May 2005. A column focusing on reading. Note: as a reader, I love so many authors. Some that I haven't mentioned lately: Donna Jo Napoli (author interview); Julius Lester; Martha Moore; Patrice Kindl; Margaret Peterson Haddix; among others.

In Search of Your Books Most Powerful Sales Tool: Your Title by Michael Larson from Authorlink, May 2005.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters

Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, 2005). Between working out, playing softball, and keeping up the plumbing business her dad left behind, Mike's days in Coalton, Kansas are if not full, at least familiar. Then one day, she walks into class. Xanadu. The most beautiful, smart-ass, conflicted girl in the world. Mike falls fast, and the two seem to connect. Only problem? Mike's gay and Xanadu's...not. A story of family, friendship, and unrequinted love. Barriers that can be broken and those that should be respected. Ages 12-up.

More On Far From Xanadu

Though the novel's book-talk hook is the love story, the family and friendship threads are just as heavily weighted and highly satisfying reads. Mike's best friend Jamie and brother Darryl are compelling, well-drawn, and especially resonate characters.

As someone who spent half of her childhood in Kansas, I found the town convincing and appreciated the opportunity to read a book set in the midwest. I also thought it was refreshing that "small town" didn't automatically equal "universally bigoted."

I've lived in and been around small towns, and it seems like this has become a stereotype. Call me an optimist, but some loving, good, clear-thinking people can be found everywhere.

Julie Anne Peters is one of my favorite YA authors. I highly recommend her other YA novels: Luna, Keeping You A Secret, and Define Normal--all published by Megan Tingley/Little Brown.

Cynsational News & Links

Interview with Julie Anne Peters by Malindo Lo from AfterEllen.com. April 21, 2005. Note: this is an excellent, don't-miss interview.

Read the first chapter of Far From Xanadu from Time Warner Books.

Surf over to Julie Anne Peters' Blah, Blah, Blog.

"Anything Goes, But What Does a Banned-Book Author Do Next?": a chat with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor from the Institute of Children's Literature.

The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers 2005 Awards and Honors have been announced. Congratulations to all the honorees, especially Deborah L. Duval, author of Rabbit and the Bears: A Grandmother Story, illustrated by Murv Jacob (UNM Press, 2004) for best children's book, Joy Harjo (author of The Good Luck Cat, illustrated by Paul Lee (Harcourt, 2000)) for best screenplay, Devon A. Mihesuah, author of So You Want to Write About Indians? A Guide for Scholars, Writers, and Students (Booklocker, 2005), for research and Oyate for foundation/organization of the year!*

*one of my own books was a 2001 Wordcraft Circle winner: Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins). Follow Rain's progress at Bookcrossing.com.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Social Justice In Native American Literature for Youth

Today, I received contributor copies of the Journal of Children's Literature: A Journal of the Children's Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (Vol. 31, No. 1, spring 2005), focusing on Special Collections of Children's Literature, Book Illustrations, and Picture Book art.

My article "Social Justice in Native American Literature For Youth" appears on pg. 7. It was adapted from a speech I gave as part of the 2004 CLA Workshop on Social Justice in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Cynsational News & Links

Author Susan Taylor Brown debuts her blog, Write On Right Now! Her recent topics include: the balancing act: writing and the day job.

Tribute to Charlemae Hill Rollins from the de Gummond Children's Literature Collection. "During her 30 year career as a librarian, author and storyteller, Mrs. Rollins was an advocate for the positive portrayal of African Americans in children's literature."

The Children's Writing Update features the magazine market, insights from a librarian, and rules beginners should never break.

Who Wrote That? Featuring Laurie Halse Anderson from Patricia M. Newman. I learned about this profile from Laurie's LJ.

Greg and I were invited to Walter The Giant's upcoming birthday party! The invitation came this week. Woo woo! Walter--a long-time children's/YA lit guru--is now also the author of Walter The Giant Storyteller's Giant Book Of Giant Stories, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley (Walker, 2005).

Congratulations to author Amanda Jenkins, recipient of the latest PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship!

Thank you to Kids Lit: Books and More for Kids and Teens for mentioning mine and Greg's blogs!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Picture Book Length

Picture books should be as long as they need to be. That every-word-perfect standard is high.

Traditionally, the core market audience for picture books is 4 to 7. However, picture books are increasingly used with older kids, even teenagers; ie: In fact, Kelly Milner Halls' Albino Animals was both a YALSA Quick Pick and BBYA this past year.

Forces I suspect drive the shorter-picture book trend include: (1) pushing younger and younger children to read novels (AKA "growing up is a race");* (2) the decline of the school/library market, which means that there is less money for literary trade books in the classroom; (3) the emphasis on standardized testing, which means there is less time for literary trade books in the classroom; (4) the decline of local bookstores (buyers appear to favor curriculum tie-in and bedtime stories); (5) the rise of national bookstores (buyers appear to favor books more for a rousing storytime); and (6) an emphasis on mainstream American consumers (as opposed to ethnic minorities, urbans, etc.).

That said, the industry is notoriously cyclical, and change can be counted on.

My first picture book, Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000) was 850 words. The picture book that my husband and I wrote together this past year and for which we just signed a contract with Dutton is 1012 words (before final edits). The latter is a quicker read aloud because of the pacing and tone.

So, believe in your stories and polish, polish, polish!

More Thoughts

*"My seven year old can read Harry Potter!"
"Well, my four year old can read Harry Potter!"
"My baby read Harry Potter in utero!"

Madame Esmé and I spoke about this rather frightening parenting trend on a panel at a recent Texas Book Festival. Visit her at Planet Esmé.

Cynsational Links

Thanks to the following folks for their recent comments on this blog or its LJ syndication: illustrator Don Tate; author D.L. Garfinkle, author Haemi Balgassi; the Complimenting Complimenter; author Laurie Halse Anderson; author Mary E. Pearson; writer Kimberly Pauley; and author Cynthia Lord.

It was on CynthiaL's blog that I learned about another great one, Notes from the Slush Pile.

Thanks also to Debbi Michiko Florence for her recent congratulations on mine and Greg's picture book sale to Dutton!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Over and Over You by Amy McAuley

Surf over to spookycyn to read my thoughts on Amy McAuley's debut novel, Over and Over You (Roaring Brook, 2005), and check out my list of hypothetical past lives.

Boys & Girls, Men & Women, Authors & Heroes

Last night, I led a chat exploring gender writing issues with author panelists Nancy Werlin, D.L. Garfinkle, and Brian Yansky at The YA Authors Cafe. I'll let y'all know when the transcript is posted online, but in the meantime, here's a sampling of the questions I asked them:

What are your experiences, challenges, and/or lack thereof when it comes to writing a cross-gender protagonist? I.e., from a female point of view if you’re a male.

Is there such a thing as "gender authenticity" in voice? Is it sexist to ask? Is it sexist not to?

It’s often said that girls will read “boy” books, but boys won’t read “girl” books. What do you think is a “boy” book? What is a “girl” book?

Assuming boys won’t read “girl” books, but “girls” will read either, should we be more worried about this? Is it part of the reason there are, say, so few women in Congress?

Do male authors have an advantage in a business so dominated by women? And if so, why and how does it manifest itself?

Are there downsides to being a male author? And if so, why and how do they manifest themselves?

Overall, do you think men and women approach the craft and/or business differently, and if so, how?

Any thoughts appreciated!

Cynsational Links

Check out the latest from editor Harold Underdown's May blog on: resubmitting to an agent or publisher; source citation in children's nonfiction; non-profit and grant-supported publishers; responding to a personal rejection; picture book length; and more.

The Secret to Becoming a Published Writer by Margot Finke from The Purple Crayon. Notice that my secret is included! I was so flattered. Visit the author mentor/teachers I mentioned, Jane Kurtz and Kathi Appelt, to learn more about them and their work.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Reminder: Boys & Girls, Men & Women, Authors & Heroes

Tonight, May 10 at the YA Authors Cafe - Boys & Girls, Men & Women, Authors & Heroes: how gender affects how we write, who we write for, and what happens next. Cynthia Leitich Smith explores gender writing issues with panelists Nancy Werlin, D.L. Garfinkle, and Brian Yansky.

The YA Authors Cafe chats are held Tuesday evenings at 8:30 p.m. EST. Please join in at www.yaauthorscafe.com. Click the cafe chatroom icon to enter the chat.

Cynsational Links

A Round-Up of Some of the Season's Best Books for Boys by Elizabeth Ward from The Washington Post. (Children's and YA).

Author Greg Leitich Smith blogs about channeling your inner child.

Check out the lovely Laurie Halse Anderson's May 7 LJ entry about her writing group. Very interesting! I'm also proud to be included among her buddies.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Double Byline

Greg and I signed a contract this week with Dutton Children's Books for a humorous holiday picture book, tentatively titled Santa and the Snorklepuss. We're not sure yet on the publication date, but we're thrilled that Steve Bjorkman has already agreed to illustrate the story.

This soon-to-be published manuscript represents the first book Greg and I have co-authored, and it also will be his first picture book.

In addition, I got word today that Tantalize, my upcoming gothic fantasy YA, has been slated for August 2007, just in time for Halloween. The novel will be published by Candlewick, and the revision process has been the subject of many a spookycyn post.

Cynsational Links

An Interview with Doug Whiteman, publisher of Penguin Young Readers Group, from childrensillustrators.com.

"Bibliography, Biology, Biopsy-What?" by Katie Clark, in the Writing Nonfiction section of Writing Tips from the Institute of Children's Literature. See also "Making the Writing Better: Cutting Pages, Paragraphs, Lines and Words" by Gail Martini-Peterson, in the Work Habits section of ICL Writer's Support.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Worser and Worser; O. Henry Writing Club

Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Simon & Schuster, 2005), spoke about plot yesterday to SCBWI Austin members at Barnes & Noble Westlake.

She drew on her own experiences as a reader, writer, educator, and former children's bookstore owner, and she highly recommended the book Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver, creator of the legendary Writers' Loft in Chicago.

Anne's examples of children's books that showed steadily rising opposition against the protagonist were: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Frindle by Andrew Clements.

She also talked about books that began with a character want (like Pig Enough by Janie Bynum and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka) as well as books that began with a conflict (like Milo's Hat Trick by Jon Agee and Bubba and Beau Meet The Relatives by Kathi Appelt).

Another helpful book that came up during the Q&A that followed was Story by Robert McKee. It also was noted that Immediate Fiction doesn't particularly address subplots, but arguably the same principles could be applied to a lesser intensity.

After Anne's talk, Greg and I stayed on for the 15th Annual O. Henry Writing Club Celebration, MC'd by Austin writer Spike Gillespie.

We were among ten local authors who each read aloud one of the winner's entries and presented them with a signed copy of one of our own books and a collection of O. Henry's short stories.

"My" winner was a delightful middle school girl, who has an interest in journalism and horseback riding. It was a great honor to meet her, read her work, and present her with a copy of the anthology along with my first novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name.

About a hundred people were in attendance, and I was pleased to see adults applauding for youth writing.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Little Prairie Hen Wins 1rst TSRA Golden Spur Award

The Texas State Reading Association (TSRA), the state affiliate of the International Reading Association (IRA), has announced the winner of the annual Texas Golden Spur Award for Children's Literature. This year's recipient was announced in conjunction with the 50th IRA Convention in San Antonio.

The award has been established to honor the authors of children's literature who reside in the state of Texas. Other criteria includes a publication date of within five years and nominations based on literary merit. To learn more about this award, please go to www.tsra.us.

The winner was: Little Prairie Hen by College Station author, Debbie Leland.

The runners-up were: Alley Cat's Meow by College Station author, Kathi Appelt; Bluebonnet at the Marshall Train Depot by Carrollton author, Mary Brooke Casad; Plaidypus Lost by Fort Worth author, Susan Stevens Crummel; Jazz Cats by San Antonio author, David R. Davis; Eric and the Enchanted Leaf: The First Adventure by Houston author, Deborah Frontiera.

Cynsational Thoughts

Anyone who has spent a lot of time pouring through American publisher catalogs knows that published authors have tended to rise from the Northeast and California. Authors from "the middle" are more rare. In fact, it's not unusual for a big NYC publisher to offer more books by the citizens of Great Britain that by voices from the American midwest, Great Lakes, southwest, southeast, northwest, and deep south put together.

It is vitally important that underrepresented regions support and nuture their own talent. Promoting and reading books by a particular author is, in a sense, a vote for more books by that author or of that author's (sometimes geographic) sensibility.

Congratulations, Debbie!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Comments: Talk To Cyn!

Dear Cynsational Readers,

As you may have noticed, I've turned on comments both for Cynsational and SpookyCyn.

So, don't be a blurker (blog + lurker). Let me hear what you have to say.

According to my profile, I've written about 40,000 words, which is arguably novel-length.

Here's a sampling of some of my favorite past posts, in case you may have missed one: Jingle Dancer, Cinderella, Multicultural Humor, Seriously, The Thin & The Fat of It, Author's Life, Not Writing?, Rituals, First Reading, El Chino and Son of the Mob, The Order of the Poison Oak, Indian Shoes, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, Bibliotherapy and Star Wars, The Truth About Sparrows, My (Mostly) Non-Writing Life, Sock Monkey Goes To Hollywood, Unexpected Development, National Book Finalists Announced (featuring an interview with Julie Anne Peters on Luna), Children's Illustrator in "Desperate Housewives," In Memory of Francess Lantz (featuring author interview), Effective Aspects, Picture Book Market, Why I Write, Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson, Critique: Giving & Receiving, Novel Critique and Revision Questions, Profile on Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, An Interview With Cynthia Leitich Smith, Storky: How I Lost My Nickname and Won The Girl, Wanna Win The Newbery?, Cynsational Books of 2004, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, Vivian Vande Velde on Companions of the Night and Being Dead, Promotional Postcards, Period Pieces: Stories for Girls, Out of Order, Anne Bustard on Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, See You Down The Road, Last Dance on Holladay Street, Maya Running, Tribal Thoughts, Interview with Elisa Carbone, Moccasin Thunder, Writing, Fear, and Gender, Comfort, In My Grandmother's House, Writing for YAs v. Adults, Humor in YA Lit, Niche Marketing Children's & YA Books, Kathi Appelt and Joy Fisher Hein on Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers, A Room on Lorelei Street, Holly Black on Tithe, The Boyfriend List, Dancing In Red Shoes Will Kill You, Stained, Boy Proof, Greg Leitich Smith on Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo, Each Little Bird That Sings.

That should give y'all plenty to talk about.

Cynsationally Yours,


P.S. Thanks to DevasT for clueing me in on how comments work.

Lerner Publishing Group To Give Away Books To Teen Read Registrants

CHICAGO - Lerner Publishing Group, an official sponsor of the Young Adult Library Association's (YALSA) Teen Read Week celebration, will donate one new biography to librarians and educators who are planning to celebrate Teen Read Week, October 16 - 22, 2005.

Those who want to receive books from Lerner must become official Teen Read Week participants by registering for Teen Read Week on the web at www.ala.org/teenread. Members and nonmembers of YALSA are eligible to participate in this offer, and those who wish to join the association can find membership information at: www.ala.org/yalsa.

Librarians and educators must register by September 15 to be eligible to receive books from Lerner.

Lerner Publishing Group is an independent publisher of highly acclaimed and well-reviewed books for young adults as well as children of all ages. Since 1959, Lerner has created books that have captured readers' curiosity and attention.

Lerner's young adult books are published through the following imprints: top-quality nonfiction by Twenty-First Century Books and YA fiction by Carolrhoda Books. Their title listing is available at www.lernerbooks.com.

"We are exceptionally thrilled to be sponsoring Teen Read Week and hope that every teen gets the opportunity to read and explore their curiosities in more detail," stated Adam Lerner, Publisher and President at Lerner Publishing Group.

"YALSA is delighted to have Lerner Publishing Group as a supporter of Teen Read Week," said YALSA President David Mowery. "Thanks to Lerner's generous support, library workers and educators have an extra incentive to register for, and celebrate, Teen Read Week, which helps to promote literacy for teens nationwide."

Now in its eighth year, Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative of YALSA, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The number of school library media centers, public libraries and bookstores that celebrate Teen Read Week has grown steadily over the years. In 2004, over 1,300 participants registered on the Teen Read Week Web site (www.ala.org/teenread).

The Teen Read Week Web site, includes annotated lists of recommended reading for teens; tips for planning and promoting Teen Read Week events locally; Teen Read Week products available for purchase; links to the Teens' Top Ten, a list of book favorites chosen by teens; professional resources for librarians, teachers and parents and more. This year, participants who officially register for Teen Read Week on the Web site can download the Get Real! @ your library logo.

Lerner Publishing Group is a Classic Sponsor of Teen Read week. Orca Book Publishers and Pam Spencer Holley are official Friends of Teen Read Week. Teen Read Week's nonprofit supporting organizations include: American Association of School Administrators, American Booksellers Association, Cable in the Classroom, KIDSNET, Kids Care, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Council of Teachers of English, SmartGirl.org, National Education Association, National School Board Association, PBS, Speak Up Press, International Reading Association, TeenInk and The N/Noggin.

For more information, contact the YALSA office by e-mail at yalsa@ala.org, or by phone at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4387.

Cynsational News & Links

"Cultivating My Garden of Editors" by Nancy Bennett in the Satisfying Editors section of Writer's Support from the Institute of Children's Literature. See also "Dialogue: Eye-Glazing or Eye-Popping?" by Kathy Greer in the Story Dialogue section of Writing Tips from ICL.

"Editing Anthologies for Young People" by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling from CBC Magazine.

Danny Schnitzlein, author of The Monster Who Ate My Peas, illustrated by Matt Faulkner (Peachtree, 2001), offers Tips For Writers: Young and Old.

More personally, I blogged on spookycyn this week about the importance of understanding one's villainous characters.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Zipped down I-35 with Greg yesterday for the third time in the past week, this round back to San Antonio, to meet with Dr. Jim Blasingame at Boudro's for an article he's writing about us.

For those of you who are local or visiting for the IRA conference, I highly recommend the decadent lobster, crawfish, shrimp dish.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cynsational News & Links

Help! The Writing Process of the Dirty Cowboy: From Family Story to Published Book by Amy Timberlake from The Purple Crayon. See also Help from Family, Critique Groups, and SCBWI and Working With Publishers for the rest of the story.

An Interview with Jennifer Barnes, author of Golden (Knopf, forthcoming) from the "Secrets Of Success" column on author Ellen Jackson's Web site. Jennifer is a 20-year-old cognitive science major at Yale.

Anastasia Suen blogs about the Writer's Digest call for nominees; the editors are looking for blogs to highlight in an upcoming issue. Allow me to echo Anastasia when I encourage you to nominate blogs of children's/YA authors and illustrators!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What Novels Would I Teach?

The question was posed on one of my writer list servs: what children's/YA novel would you teach? These were my answers:

Middle Grade Novels would include: Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005); The Storyteller's Beads by Jane Kurtz (Harcourt, 1998); The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

YA Novels: Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville (Harcourt, 1998); Sammy & Juliana In Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Cinco Puntos Press, 2004); When Kambia Elaine Flew Down From Neptune by Lori Aurelia Williams (Simon & Schuster, 2000).

In case it helps any teachers out there, Dr. Waller Hastings at Northern State U in South Dakota teaches my 'tweener novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (Harper, 2001), and author/librarian Toni Buzzeo prepared an incredible standards-based curriculum for my husband's novel, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2003).

Cynsational News and Links

Writer Debbi Michiko Florence offers a "Buzz Review" of Over and Over You by Amy McAuley (Roaring Brook, 2005).

Writing.com: an online community for writers of all ages, interests and skill levels. Anyone may create a free portfolio and exchange feedback with other writers. Named one of Writer's Digest's 101 "Best Websites For Writers, 2005."

Author Interview with Alex Flinn on Fade To Black (HarperCollins, 2005) from Teenreads.com.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Promote Your Back List

I've spent most of the morning answering questions for a feature in Library Sparks, corresponding with a beginning Native writer, suggesting other authors to planners for upcoming events, and coordinating revisions with editors.

I was also thinking that I've had a number of conversations of late with breakthrough writers, those who've sold their first book (and perhaps more) in the recent tough market. This is mostly because Austin has had an explosion in new talent. Yay!

One suggestion I have for new authors is to keep looking for opportunities to promote their back-list books. The front-list window is not a big one, and certainly, you want to maximize opportunities while on center stage. But children's books are going out of print quickly these days, and consistent sales are what will bring your story to each new wave of young readers.

No one is a better advocate for your book(s) than you. So keep your eyes open and your cover art ready! Show your love for your book and readers by continuing to bring them together.

Cynsational News & Links

Today's mail brings a postcard from Italy from author/illustrator Katie Davis. Thanks, Katie!

Author Anastasia Suen blogs about the Lee & Low New Voices Award.

The 2005-2006 nominees for the Crown Gallery, Crown, and Lamplighter Awards have been posted by the Christian Schools Association. Special congratulations to: Austinite Don Tate, illustrator of Black All Around by Patricia Hubbell (Lee & Low); Austinite Lindsey Lane, author of Snuggle Mountain, illustrated by Melissa Iwai (Clarion); Kay Winters, author of Abraham Lincoln, The Boy Who Loved Books, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Simon & Schuster); Jane Kurtz, author of both Bicycle Madness, illustrated by Beth Peck (Henry Holt) and Saba: Under the Hyena's Foot (American girl).

"When Your Muse Plays Hide and Seek" by Shari Lyle-Soffe from her blog, Out of My Mind.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Earning By Learning

Greg and I spoke today at Reading In The Garden, an event coordinated by Earning By Learning at the Dallas Arboretum.

It was a lovely, sunny day, focusing on my early reader chapter book, Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), and highlighted by well-prepared and enthusiastic students from five Dallas area elementary schools.

Memories include posing in front of two 15-foot tall peacocks (assembled from flowers), strolling the pathways, and autographing one book for each member of the audience.

Cynsational Links

The Authors' Wish List, compiled by the POD, from author/librarian Toni Buzzeo.

New Jersey SCBWI announces its annual conference June 4, 2005 at Caldwell College in Caldwell, New Jersey.