Friday, February 17, 2006

SCBWI Bologna 2006 Author Interview: Justine Larbalestier

From SCBWI Bologna 2006:

Justine Larbalestier will be speaking at the SCBWI Bologna 2006 conference in Bologna, Italy, March 25-26, 2006. Other speakers include: Authors and illustrators Scott Westerfeld (author interview), Sara Rojo, Doug Cushman. Editors: Victoria Arms/Bloomsbury, Judy Zylstra/Eerdmans, Anne McNeil of Hodder UK, Mary Rodgers/Lerner. Agents: Rosemary Canter/PFD, Barry Goldblatt/Barry Goldblatt Literary, Rosemary Stimola, and others. See registration information.

Justine Larbalestier was born in Sydney, Australia, and has spent the majority of her life there, though she and her husband, Scott Westerfeld, travel whenever possible. Her first book was the Hugo-nominated Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (Wesleyan University Press, 2002). She has published two novels, Magic or Madness (Penguin/Razorbill, 2005), and its sequel Magic Lessons (Penguin/Razorbill, 2006). The final book in the trilogy will be available in March 2007. Magic or Madness has been nominated for an Aurealis Award for best YA book of the year and was a best book of the year selection for School Library Journal, Tayshas (the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Libary Association), and the Australian children's literature magazine, Magpies. Lawrence Schimel interviewed her in December 2005.

Lawrence Schimel: How and why did you begin writing YA?

Justine Larbalestier: The idea for the Magic or Madness trilogy had been brewing for a long time, but the opportunity to write it didn't come until Eloise Flood was offered her own imprint, Razorbill, at Penguin USA. She was looking for inventory, so I pitched her my trilogy idea. She was interested but needed to see a proposal and first three chapters pronto. I put everything else aside and went to work writing and rewriting them over and over. Luckily, she liked the partial enough to buy the whole trilogy. A very lucky break for a first-time novelist.

I've been reading YA for a long time. Obsessively, when I was a kid, but I stopped when I considered myself too grown-up for them (at age thirteen!). I took them up again in my twenties when a friend, Lawrence Schimel, introduced me to Philip Ridley’s In the Eyes of Mr. Fury and the many books of M. E. Kerr. I was hooked. The idea of writing one of my own occurred to me pretty early on.

LS: Not having kids of your own and no longer an adolescent yourself, what do you do to find or recreate an authentic teenage voice in your fiction?

JL: Like many people, my teenage years weren't exactly fabulous. They are etched deep in my memory, accessing them is dead easy. It's being an adult that's hard.

LS: Name one book (adult or YA) you wish you had written.

JL: Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen.

LS: What is your favorite book from your childhood?

JL: The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

LS: As an adult now, what is your favorite children's book (as a reader)?

JL: Can I name a YA book? If so, Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (HarperCollins, 2005). If not, Slugs by David Greenberg and illustrated by Victoria Chess.

LS: Any advice for new writers?

JL: Write, write, write! And then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!

LS: Any advice for more-experienced writers?

JL: I think that'd be a bit presumptious, given that I'm right at the beginning of my career with only two novels published and one of them just this month. There's still so much I need to learn about writing, about the publishing industry. But really the write, write, write advice holds for everyone at all stages of their career. Most especially for me!

LS: Something you wish you hadn't done?

JL: Worn pretty much any of the clothes I wore in the eighties. In paricular I'm thinking the bronze slippers teamed with a blue satin puffy sleeved jacket over a torn white T-shirt and bright red ski pants. Shudder.

LS: You spend part of the year in New York and part of the year in Sydney. Do you write differently on the "other" side of the world?

JL: Actually, I seem to write best in Mexico! Too many distractions in my hometown of Sydney and in New York City. I definitely think that travelling, and writing in different places (so far we've done writing holidays in New Zealand, Mexico and Argentina), has made me a better writer. It pulls me out of my everyday and when I go home I see Sydney and Australia with fresh eyes. That's part of where Magic or Madness, which is half set in Sydney, came from. Living overseas made me see my country and compatriots much more clearly.

LS: What are some of the differences in children's publishing, and/or being a writer, in Australia as opposed to the US?

JL: I'm still learning what they are. Because my publishing career began in the US I know more about the New York publishing scene than the Australian one.

LS: What is it like living with another writer? Are you competetive with one another? Supportive? Are you each other's first-reader?

JL: Living with Scott is a blast. I adore it. We're competitive about stupid things, like, who can spit the farthest, bounce the highest, predict cricket scores, stuff like that, but never about writing. Scott's amazingly supportive of my writing, as I am of his. We're not only each other's first readers, we're each other's biggest fans.

LS: Have you thought about collaborating on a book together? (Or would that be a bad thing for your relationship?)

JL: Oh, sure, we have endless plans for lots of books we'd like to do together, but so far there just hasn't been time. Scott's been writing books back to back for several years and I've been tied up as well. Who knows maybe this will be the year we finally do it!

LS: What is different about writing a multi-volume work versus a stand-alone novel?

JL: With the trilogy (which is the only multi-volume work I've tried my hand at thus far) I had to think about how the three volumes would fit together and how to make them stand alone as well. It's very tricky. I asked several people to read Magic Lesson (book 2 of the trilogy) who hadn't read book 1 to see if they could follow the story. Arrogantly, I was expecting them to tell me it worked just fine on its own. Nope. I had to do several major rewrites after I got their comments. Very humbling.

But stand-alones, too, have their challenges. Basically, every book is different and tricky in its own way.

LS: Which format do you prefer?

JL: At the moment, still caught up in rewriting the third book of the Magic or Madness trilogy, I definitely prefer stand-alones. But I imagine that when I'm in the midst of my next book, which will probably be a standalone, I'll start pining for trilogies. I'm always enamoured by whatever my next idea is, rarely by the book I'm in the middle of.

LS: Having written a synopsis and sample chapters as a proposal, how closely do you stick to it when actually writing the book once it has sold?

JL: Pretty closely for the first few chapters, after that I don't look at the proposal again until I get stuck, at which point it's of no use because I've gone off in a different direction.

LS: Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

JL: I can't believe SCBWI has invited me to come to Bologna, one of my favourite cities in the world. Thank you!

Cynsational News & Links

Congratulations to Philip Yates (author interview) on the sale of A Pirate's Christmas to Sterling Publishing! Cheers also to Betty X. Davis, whose story, "The Magic Needle" was published in the December issue of Spider! Both Phil and Betty are Austinites.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

SCBWI Bologna 2006 Author Interview: Scott Westerfeld

From SCBWI Bologna 2006:

YA author Scott Westerfeld, author of Pretties and other top-of-the-chart books will be speaking at the SCBWI Bologna 2006 conference in Bologna, Italy, March 25-26, 2006. His talk and workshop (with Justine Larbalestier) topics include: "Slanguage: Teen Voices and Teen Vernaculars;" "How to Write a Synopsis: Stand-Alones and Multi-Volume Works." Other speakers include: Authors and illustrators Justine Larbalestier, Sara Rojo, Doug Cushman. Editors: Victoria Arms/Bloomsbury, Judy Zylstra/Eerdmans, and others. Agents: Rosemary Canter/PFD, Barry Goldblatt/Barry Goldblatt Literary, Rosemary Stimola, and others. See registration information.

Scott Westerfeld is the author of five novels for adults and six for young adults. The most recent are Peeps (Penguin, 2005) and Pretties (Simon & Schuster,2005)(excerpt). His books have won the Philip K. Dick Special Citation, the Aurealis Award, and been named NY Times Notable Books of the Year. His YA novel So Yesterday (Penguin, 2004) won the Victorian Premier's Award in 2005. He has contributed nonfiction to Nerve, BookForum, and the scientific journal Nature, and published short fiction on scifi.com and in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He is married to the Hugo-nominated writer Justine Larbalestier, is a permanent resident of Australia, and splits his time between New York and Sydney. Visit Scott's site and blog. Lawrence Schimel interviewed Scott in December 2005.

Lawrence Schimel: How and why did you begin writing YA?

Scott Westerfeld: At the end of a long ghost-writing project, one which had almost destroyed my brain, I had the idea for Midnighters (HarperCollins, 2004-). It came out of nowhere, and was clearly a young adult idea: about a group of teens in a small town where time froze at midnight every night.

I had already ghost-written some choose-your-own-adventure books for kids (Goosebumps, if the truth be told) so I knew some people in the business. I took the concept to 17th Street Productions, who developed that idea with me.

Once I started writing YA, I found myself enjoying it too much to stop.

LS: You also write for adults. Do you have any plans to write something for even younger readers (middle grade or picture books)?

SW: I might write a middle grade series eventually, perhaps collaborating with Justine. I think pictures books are beyond me, though. I need at least 15,000 words to get into second gear.

LS: Is it more challenging for you to write for one age group or another? Not having kids of your own and no longer an adolescent yourself, what do you do to find or recreate an authentic teenage voice in your fiction?

SW: I think YA is my most natural age to write for. I still have a lot of the same reactions about what's cool and interesting as I did when I was 14 or so. In other words, all the issues that were important to me then—Why is the world like this? What's really happening at the levels that I can't see? Are we all robots?—are still vitally important to me now.

I think teens are doing two things at once: questioning the world in a radical way, and inventing various versions of themselves. My teen voices come out of those two problems: What the hell is this world I've found myself born into and how do I fit in? That collection of bravura, insecurity, philosophizing, irony, bemusement, and language play (inventing new words to help muddle through all those conflicting emotions) all seem to come naturally to me.

LS: Name one book (adult or YA) you wish you had written?

SW: All the books I wished I could have written are actually quite flawed. That is, I wish I could erase them from history and write them myself, but better. I wouldn't mind redoing Gossip Girl and adding some vampires, for instance...

LS: What is your favorite book from your childhood?

SW: Charlotte's Web.

LS: As an adult now, what is your favorite children's book (as a reader)?

SW: See above.

LS: Any advice for new writers?

SW: In the 1980s, I followed Kasparov and Karpov in their interminable chess duels, and I remember Karpov losing one long match due to exhaustion, because he wasn't as fit as the younger Kasparov. When I joked about that, saying that they were just pushing little wooden pieces around, a friend chided, "Chess is a sport."

One thing I've realized since then is that writing is a sport too; it takes conditioning. You have to write every day to build your sentence-level craft. You have to write your way out of hundreds of plot-tangles and character breakdowns to develop sufficient problem-solving reflexes. And until you've written a novel in one focused stretch, you can't build up the muscles it takes to keep 80,000 words of plot and character arcs in your head, which is a hard, hard thing to do.

Someone who writes "every once in a while" is like someone who plays chess by mail. It's much easier, but they don't really develop the stamina that it takes to fight their way through difficult problems.

All of which only means I'm giving the advice everyone gives new writers: write. Till it hurts.

LS: Any advice for more experienced writers?

SW: Really, it's an expansion of the above. Challenge yourself with new problems. If you've never written from multiple viewpoints, try it. If you've never written in first person, make yourself. Figure out which plot/character/technique you're most afraid of and give it a go.

At worst, you'll fail and realize that you just can't do certain things. But even then, when you go back to what you are good at, you'll generally find have a few more muscles and reflexes at your disposal.

LS: Something you wish you hadn't done?

SW: I went for too long without an agent. In addition to all the immediate benefits of being represented, you really need someone managing your career in the long run.

LS: You spend part of the year in New York and part of the year in Sydney. Do you write differently on the "other" side of the world?

SW: Sydney's much more relaxing, less distracting in good a way, and I think that leads to a more disciplined approach: 1000 words a day with a couple of days off every week. In NYC, I have a more pre-industrial process: long periods of inactivity followed by bursts of illness-inducing overwork.

I think both techniques produce interesting ideas and stories, and I can't claim to know which is better artistically. But the former is definitely healthier.

LS: What are some of the differences in children's publishing, and/or being a writer, in Australia as opposed to the US?

SW: There is definitely more structural support for writers in Australia. Writers' conferences, school visits, government awards and grants all provide significant sources of income. In the US, you pretty much only have the publishers paying you. Of course, the much greater population means that you make more money from your books.

One thing I've noticed though, is that Australians read much more per capita than Usians, so it's not nearly as bad as the fifteen-to-one population ration might make you suspect.

LS: What is it like living with another writer? Are you competitive with one another? Supportive? Are you each other's first-reader?

SW: When we're both in full writing mode, we read to each other every few nights. It's a great system in a number of ways: Because it's all oral, there's no low-level editing, which we don't want with a first draft. The listener's anticipation creates motivation for us to get that next chapter done. We hear the bad sentences as you say them aloud, of course. We have someone else to nut out plot problems with, who's only a few days at most behind.

LS: Have you thought about collaborating on a book together? (Or would that be a Bad Thing for your relationship?)

SW: It's possible we'll be doing a middle-grade series together. We'll both be exploring a new age level, so we'll be less sure of ourselves, which is why I'm not worried about it causing fights.

LS: What is different about writing a multi-volume work versus a standalone novel?

SW: Series give you a lot more room to explore the world you've created, to follow up the implications of your speculation in a global way. Standalones are better for getting into a single character's head, because the main POV character really "owns" the book.

LS: Which format do you prefer?

SW: Really, I prefer series. I especially enjoy writing second books, in which the world is already set up, and yet you still have room to subvert the reader's assumptions about how everything works. I enjoy pulling back more and more curtains, revealing new sides to everything they thought they understood. Series give you more room for those kinds of maneuvers.

LS: Having written a synopsis and sample chapters as a proposal, how closely do you stick to it when actually writing the book once it has sold?

SW: Uglies (Simon & Schuster, 2005) was sold with a very long and specific outline, which I stuck very close to. That's the kind of series it is: lots of betrayals, reversals, and complications. With the Midnighters series, I've found that those five characters bounce off each other a lot, generating their own heat, so I don't have to worry about the plotting as much. I hardly outline them at all, just set up one big conflict to get things rolling, then put the characters into various groupings and let their battling egos keep the ball rolling.

Cynsational News & Links

Jo Whittemore -- Books for Young Adults and the Young at Heart: debut website from the debut YA author of a fantasy trilogy that begins with Escape from Arylon (Llewellyn, March 2006). Jo is one of the original members of AS IF! (Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom). Check on her LiveJournal!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

SCBWI Bologna 2006

SCBWI BOLOGNA 2006: Join Authors and illustrators Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Sara Rojo, Doug Cushman. Editors: Victoria Arms/Bloomsbury, Judy Zylstra/Eerdmans, and others. Agents: Rosemary Canter/PFD, Barry Goldblatt/Barry Goldblatt Literary, Rosemary Stimola. Hands-on workshops and roundtable discussions: SCBWI Bologna, 25-26 March 2006. Register today!

SCBWI BEFORE-BOLOGNA CONFERENCE

Saturday, March 25th

2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Welcome and Introduction.

2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. "Slanguage: Teen Voices and Teen Vernaculars:" Scott Westerfeld.

3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Coffee (and portfolio "walk about" for those who wish to participate).

4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Workshops Part 1.

A) Writing: "How to Write a Synopsis: Stand-Alones and Multi-Volume Works:" Scott Westerfeld & Justine Larbalestier.

B) Illustration: "Creating Characters and Animating Them:" Doug Cushman & Sara Rojo Pérez.

Sunday, March 26th

9:30 a.m. Welcome Back.

10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Workshops Part 2.

A) Writing: "How to Write a Synopsis: Stand-Alones and Multi-Volume Works:" Scott Westerfeld & Justine Larbalestier.

B) Illustration: "Creating Characters and Animating Them:" Doug Cushman & Sara Rojo Pérez.

11:30 a.m. to noon Coffee.

noon to 1 p.m. "You Talk Funny: Regionalism and Voice:" Justine Larbalestier

1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch (and Manuscript Reviews).

2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. "A is for Agent: A Roundtable Discussion:" Rosemary Canter, UK; Rosemary Stimola, US; Barry Goldblatt, US.

4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. "Where Craft and Acquisitions Meet: A Roundtable Discussion:" Victoria Wells Arms, Bloomsbury USA; Judy Zylstra, Eerdman's; and others.

6 p.m. Cocktail Party with Industry Professionals.

Cynsational News & Links

Congratulations to Jo Knowles on the sale of Lessons From A Dead Girl (Candlewick, TBA)! Visit Jo's LJ and her agent Barry Goldblatt's!

Fathers & Daughters: a bibliography from Once Upon A Time There Was A Girl Who Wanted To Write, which is Susan Taylor Brown's LJ (author interview).

The Michigan Library Association has posted the nominees for its 2006 Thumbs-Up List. Highlights include Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci (Candlewick, 2005)(author interview), Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar (Dutton, 2005)(author interview), Teach Me by R. A. Nelson (Razorbill, 2005)(author interview), A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson (Holt, 2005)(author interview), and Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview).

Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog recommends The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou (Razorbill, 2006)(author website). He also showcases our kitties!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Author Interview: Tanya Lee Stone on A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone (Wendy Lamb/Random House, 2006) (PDF excerpt). Promo copy: "Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva all get mixed up with a senior boy–a cool, slick, sexy boy who can talk them into doing almost anything he wants. In a blur of high school hormones and personal doubt, each girl struggles with how much to give up and what ultimately to keep for herself. How do girls handle themselves? How much can a boy get away with? And in the end, who comes out on top? A bad boy may always be a bad boy. But this bad boy is about to meet three girls who won’t back down." Cyn says: "It's fantastic--hip, edgy, and addicting. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always real. Sure to be the new Forever." Ages 14-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Tanya Lee Stone on Tanya Lee Stone: "In middle-school, I was big into creative writing and poetry, and worked on the school paper. Ditto, in high school. But my newspaper time was limited because I also went to a performing arts high school, so I traveled between the two schools. At performing arts, I studied music. After high school, I went to Oberlin College where I was an English Major, and continued studying voice at Oberlin Conservatory. I got my first editorial job fresh out of college, at Holt, Rinehart & Winston. I then had a few other editorial positions, including being Jean Reynold's assistant at Grolier, before becoming the Managing Editor (of course, this was a few years later) at Blackbirch Press. I loved that job, but I had to leave it due to a move out-of-state. That was when I started writing books, which was about ten years ago."

What was your initial inspiration for creating A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl?

It all started with the title. Oh, the possibilities! As soon as I wrote it down, I was consumed.

What was the timeline from spark to publication and what were the major events along the way?

Spark: January 15, 2004, one of the special weekend sessions at Vermont College when they invite outside guests to attend. George Nicholson was giving a talk and mentioned Michael Cart's Rush Hour journal, and that the next theme open for submissions was called "Bad Boys." I took out my notebook and scrawled "a bad boy can be good for a girl." Back home that same day, I started writing about this girl who was really confident but just starting high school and had met an older guy that was making her feel confused; excited, but definitely confused. I was off and running.

A few weeks later, Kindling Words convened. At the Saturday night Fireside Reading I read five minutes of what I had so far. I remember telling Karen Romano Young before I read that I was nervous, and she was surprised because it wasn't really like me. I also remember, very clearly, trembling while I was reading, but also hearing those murmurs from the audience when they really connect with something you're saying, which gives you a lot of confidence to keep going. When I sat back down next to Karen she squeezed my hand and said, "Now I understand why you were nervous; you really put yourself out there." That night a couple of different people approached me about my reading. They challenged me to think beyond the short story format, which was what Bad Boy began as, and said to them it sounded like the beginning of a novel. Now there was a moment I'll never forget. I had published plenty of nonfiction books, but I had never really considered writing a novel. I was charged up. I went to my room and wrote until I couldn't stay awake any more. Then I jolted awake at about 4 am (probably only about two hours later) and wrote until breakfast. I couldn't stop. The book was pouring out of me. Josie was pouring out of me. I may have written 40 or 50 pages that weekend, I can't really remember, but it took me over for the next few months. I was on deadline for other things and had to do them, but the desire to get back to working on Bad Boy was palpable.

The next major event was a novel writing retreat that was an extension of New England SCBWI, in May. I workshopped the novel there, which was a completed first draft by then, and during that weekend realized that the fourth girl needed to be chopped out of the book and set aside for later. Her story was too complex and needed its own space. I'll get back to her when I can, although her story is still fresh in my mind.

It was almost two years to the day from when I read it at Kindling Words until A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl appeared on bookshelves. I'll never forget the rush of that first partial reading. That feeling that you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing at that moment of your life.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life? What were the hard questions you had to ask of yourself?

I guess the hardest question I asked myself was after it was finished—if I was really ready, as Karen had put it to me that first night—to put myself out there. I guess we know the answer, ‘cause I'm out there, baby!

What made you decide to tell Bad Boy as a novel in poems rather than prose?

It really was the different patterns of speech that led me to the verse approach. I liked being able to shape the way the three girls talked, physically shape it, on the page. It worked for me and felt very natural. I had read a lot of verse novels and knew how I felt about why some worked and some didn't. In my opinion, I think the ones that work well are those in which each poem both stands alone as a good poem and also functions as a part to the whole; moving the story along effectively. In revision, I looked at those components and did cut a few that I might have liked the sound of, but that ultimately didn't work for the plot or character development.

You've written a powerful essay, "Now and Forever: The Power of Sex in Young Adult Literature," which was recently published in VOYA. What inspired you to go beyond writing your novel to also address the more global context around it?

Someone told me early on, "you're going to be asked some tough questions; have your answers ready." That got me thinking about what the questions were surrounding this topic, and how I might explain, if someone did ask me, the importance of dealing with this theme in YA lit. So I went ahead and asked myself! The climate seemed right to address the issue in general and have an opportunity to point out many books that handle these themes well.

Your comments include the observation that books are possibly the safest place for teens to learn about sex--not just as a physical act but also the surrounding emotions. This seemed so smart and true to me, but obviously there are censors who disagree. How do we--a community of readers and writers--respond to their arguments? What would you say if standing before a public school board that was deciding whether to pull your book from the library?

I think most of these arguments come from fear; from not wanting to see that our kids are learning or hearing about things that maybe we're not ready for them to experience. Censors are generally adults, and that's not who I write for. I write for kids; in this case, young adults. I trust them to self-censor. We've all watched plenty of kids in bookstores and libraries—they pick up a book, flip through it, and put it back if it doesn't speak to them; if they're not ready for it. I always think of that scene in "Field of Dreams," when Kevin Costner's wife stands up and struts and screams in defense of not banning books. I love that scene! I'd like to think that if I had to stand before a school board I would urge them not to take away the important role YA fiction can play in offering readers a safe place to explore, to put themselves in other people's shoes, and imagine different perspectives without necessarily having to experience everything first-hand.

I'd like to touch on some of your work for younger readers. I was delighted to read on your site that Abraham Lincoln (DK, 2005) has sold more than 50,000 copies. Congratulations! What do you think makes this book stand out over others about Lincoln? What advice do you have for writers working on biographies?

Thanks! I read this book aloud to a class of 4th and 5th graders, over the course of a couple of weeks. It really worked as a read-aloud, which to me meant that I succeeded in writing his life as a story. My advice is to make your nonfiction subject come to life for yourself as much as possible; make interesting connections, highlight unusual things kids may not know about a topic, and always keep in mind what is important to you, the writer, about your topic while you're writing. If you're passionate about the subject, I think that comes through in the writing.

I also was pleased to see that you have a forthcoming picture book biography, Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Henry Holt, 2007). It seems that power and women may be an emerging theme in your work. Is that the case? Could you give readers a hint of what's to come in this forthcoming title?

Yes, I do believe you're right! ;-) Strong girls and women are definitely a pervasive theme in my writing. Elizabeth Leads the Way is the story of how Elizabeth Cady Stanton was inspired by her upbringing and her own internal fire to get the women's suffrage movement started. Now that you mention it, my next YA novel, as well as the next few nonfiction books I have coming out, all focus on the strength of female characters in one way or another.

You were a children's book editor for 13 years. Did this inspire you to become a writer? What insights does a background in editing offer a writer?

Ever since I was a girl, I've been writing. I think I lost a little of my confidence in my writing abilities during college, of all places. My advisers were tough on me, as they should have been. But I lost some steam. After I was editing for a time, though, it came back to me. I began writing again, for fun, and really enjoyed it. My editorial background has definitely been an advantage in terms of craft. I edited hundreds and hundreds of books before I wrote my first one for publication.

How about your experiences as a reader? What were your favorite two or three children's and YA books of all time? What made each resonate with you?

My favorite all-time picture book is Harold and the Purple Crayon (HarperCollins, 1955). The idea that life can be anything you create it to be is simple and powerful, just like the book. That book made me feel good the first time I read it as a little kid, and the feeling comes back each and every time I open it again.

My favorite books as a kid were Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth (Random House, 1961), Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (Bantam Doubleday, 1962), and Julie Edwards's The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (Harper & Row, 1974). I immersed myself in the worlds those authors created and was carried away by their imaginations—which nurtured my own. I just noticed that those are all fantasies, which is not my favorite genre as an adult. I tend to like contemporary realistic fiction or historical fiction.

Is it true that you own a purple leopard coat?

It's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but! I LOVE that coat—it's purple, warm, cozy, cat-like, and did I say, purple?

Is there anything you'd like to add?

I think what has surprised me most about this process is the things that evolve from writing a particular book. For my launch party, I scripted a stage version of Bad Boy that gave the boy an introductory monologue and introduced the three girls to the audience. I found that I really enjoyed playing with a different form, and that it led me to think of other ways to reach readers. I'm now looking forward to having the opportunity to work with school groups with a visual forum that lends itself to discussion.

I'd also like to add a big thank you for interviewing me so Cynsationally!

Cynsational Notes

School Library Journal gave A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl a starred review, and chose it for Book of the Week. The novel also has received great reviews from the Horn Book, Booklist, and been featured in Ellegirl (along with Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2005)).

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cynsational News & Links

Author Kittens and Dawgs from Maryrose Wood, author of Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love (Delacorte, 2006)(excerpt). From there, go visit my kittens, Bashi and Boo, and check out their picks in Kit Lit.

Hamline University seeks assistant professor of creative writing. The Graduate School of Liberal Studies (GLS) seeks to hire faculty to teach in a new low-residency MFA in writing for children and young adults, to begin in January 2007. Candidates should have substantial publications (four or more books) in the field of children’s and/or young adult literature and should demonstrate a strong, ongoing record of publication. Expertise in more than one genre (e.g., picture books, chapter books, middle grade or young adult fiction, nonfiction, poetry) desired. Evidence of outstanding college-level teaching is required. Teaching responsibilities will include participating in yearly residencies, working collaboratively with 2-5 students per semester, and advising and directing student theses. Send letter of application, c.v., and three references to Mary Rockcastle, Dean, Graduate School of Liberal Studies, Hamline University, 1536 Hewitt Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55104-1284. Application deadline is February 28.

Denise Schmandt-Besserat, professor emerita at the University of Texas at Austin, speaks about "The Origins of Writing" at 5 p.m. April 13 in the Tom Lea Room at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. Denise is the author of The History of Counting (Morrow, 1999)(author interview). Denise has a new picture book forthcoming from Simon & Schuster. She has also signed with agent Rosemary Stimola. Another event of interest at the Ransom Center is a panel hosted by book critic and writer Ed Nawotka: "An Ode to Typewrite," a discussion of writers who compose on typewriters. Thanks to Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview), for suggesting these news items.

"Talking Animal Stories" by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature. See also "What Age is Your Reader?" also by Jan Fields from the ICL. Both of these articles are oriented toward writing for children's magazines.

Thanks to author Haemi Balgassi for announcing the redesign of my website! Thanks also to all those who sent sympathy cards and emails in response to my grandmother's recent death.
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