Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cynsational News & Links

Congratulations to Austin SCBWI founder and former RA Meredith Davis, whose manuscript "Tree" is a finalist in the Writers' League of Texas Manuscript Competition. Spookycyn readers should note that Meredith is a Writefest alumane. See the complete list of finalists!

Traffic on my website is holding firm at the end of the school year at about 20,000 unique visitors a week. As usual, most visitors are from the United States, Canada, and the U.K. Within the U.S., most visitors of late hail from California, Washington, Virginia, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Colorado (in that order). Most of the Canadians are from British Columbia and Ontario. I'd also like to send special cheers to the 100 Cynsations LJ subscribers.

CBC Showcase: May/June: Issues & Debate: "Current events and issues in the news, featuring nonfiction, picture books, and novels that approach the key topics facing our world." See also Hot off the Press and Summer Reading Extravaganza from CBC. Highlights from summer reading include: Blackbeard by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2006)(author interview); The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (Charlesbridge, 2006)(author interview); Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can, 2006)(author-illustrator interview); Casey at Bat by Ernest L. Thayer, illustrated by Joe Morse (Kids Can, 2006); Falling Into Place by Stephanie Green (Clarion, 2006).

Dayton Bookings: "a full service booking agency specializing in award-winning authors who write for children, young adults and adults. The agency is committed to assisting schools, libraries and conference organizers in planning a successful author visit--from contracting until completion."

"How to Write a Picture Book an Editor Will Love" by Gwendolyn Hooks of the Institute of Children's Literature.

"Let's Play Ball!" Baseball (Book) Picks for 2006 from Embracing the Child. See also the site author of the month, an interview with Eileen Spinelli.

Meet the Author-Illustrator: Laura Krauss Melmed from CBC Magazine. Laura's titles include: Moishe's Miracle, illustrated by David Slonim (Chronicle, 2005); New York, New York! The Big Apple from A to Z, illustrated by Frané Lessac (HarperCollins, 2005); Capital! Washington, DC from A to Z, illustrated by Frané Lessac (HarperCollins, 2004); This First Thanksgiving Day, illustrated by Mark Buehner (HarperTrophy, 2003); and Hurry, Hurry, Have You Heard (Chronicle Books, 2007).

Meet Illustrator Don Tate from SLJ Blog. See also a recent Cynsations interview with Don.

North Central/North Texas SCBWI has launched a spirited, southwesty website. The Oct. 7, 2006 conference will feature Dial editor Nancy Mercado and YA author Libba Bray (author interview).

R.L. LaFevers: official site from the author of the Lowthar's Blade trilogy (The Forging of the Blade (Dutton, 2004)(excerpt), The Secrets of Grim Wood (Dutton, 2005)(excerpt), and The True Blade of Power (Dutton, 2005)(excerpt)) and The Falconmaster (Dutton, 2003)(excerpt). Site also includes: advice and resource suggestions for writers; interesting facts about falcons and medieval life; links related to the author's books. Learn more about R.L. LaFevers.

Smart Writers Journal--May 2006. Highlights include "12 Questions about Babymouse (an interview with Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm)" by Kelly Milner Halls and "Your Great Idea Source for Curriculum-Based Historical Fiction" by Roxyanne Young. See also a recent Cynsations interview with Matthew about Babymouse.

Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin'! by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Adam Rex (FSG, 2005) and Airball: My Life In Briefs by L.D. Harkrader (Roaring Brook, 2005)(author interview) have won the 2006 Juvenile Literary Award from the Friends of American Writers. Lisa and Jill received the award on April 12 at the Friends of American Writers annual awards luncheon in Chicago.

Of U.S. Children Under 5, Nearly Half Are Minorities: Hispanic Growth Fuels Rise, Census Says by D'Vera Cohn and Tara Bahrampour of the Washington Post. May 10, 2006. Cyn Note: as publication of multicultural picture books has been on the decline (even more than picture books as a whole), what effect this population shift will have on the market? That said, I see brighter signs of late in the overall market.

Who's Moving Where? from The Purple Crayon for news of editorial shifts at HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin, Little Brown, Scholastic, and Candlewick.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Author Interview: J. Patrick Lewis on Blackbeard The Pirate King

Blackbeard The Pirate King by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by vintage art (National Geographic, 2006). "Several yarns detailing the legends, myths, and real-life adventures of history's most notorious seaman; told in verse." Ages 4-up. Cyn Note: though marked for ages 4-up, this picture book would work as well for teen readers.

From the flap bio: J. Patrick Lewis is the award-winning author of more than 45 picture books for children. He is the author of a National Children's Book Week poem and a frequent contributor of children's book reviews for the New York Times. He lives in Chargrin Falls, Ohio.

Could you tell us about your path to publication--any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I'm a walking, talking example of It's Never Too Late. In my other life (first career), I was a professor of economics. Once I discovered poetry at the august age of 39, I never looked back. Seven years of rejections later, I published my first children's picture book (1988). By the end of 2006, I will have added fifty more titles. So I guess you could say that I'd like to be a children's poet when I grow up.

Congratulations on the publication of Blackbeard: The Pirate King (National Geographic, 2006)! What is it about pirates that is so fascinating? I'd put them up there with dinosaurs and Greek myths in terms of kid appeal.

Pirates appeal, I think, because of their clandestine nature. Kids (and adults) are hooked on the buried treasure, the eye patch, the battle at sea. Piracy stretches to the breaking point our collective imagination of a world so totally at odds with the one we know.

What was your initial inspiration for this book? Why Blackbeard?

I'm trying to write poems on every subject under the sun. Blackbeard, that mysterious swashbuckler, seemed liked the perfect foil upon which to hang a poem a two.

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

I never send anything in on spec (half-finished). I write the whole manuscript and let it fly. The editor liked what she saw, then hired the world's leading Blackbeard expert, David Moore, to vet the manuscript. He did a fabulous job, and I tip my cap to him and to my editor for saving me from the occasional gaffe and for enriching the tale along the way.

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

The challenges involved no more and no less than slogging it out. I was so captivated--perhaps I should say captured--by Blackbeard and his rowdy, rousing life that I couldn't help but soldier on until I had captured HIM.

What advice do you have for beginning children's authors/poets?

First, the obvious: read, read, read. Second, the late John Ciardi told me just before he died to get hold of a very large wastebasket and keep it filled. Great advice, and I share it with children at every one of the forty or so school visits I make every year. I write every poem ten-to-twenty times. You simply cannot be a good writer without being a rewriter.

As a reader, what are your favorite recent titles for children/young adults and why?

Children ask me this question all the time, and I always say the same thing: My favorite book changes every fifteen seconds. There are too many wonderful books to have one favorite. This fifteen seconds my favorite book is Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. Is fifteen seconds up yet?

What can your fans look forward to next?

As of this writing (May 2006), I have twenty more titles coming out over the next few years. Six 2006 titles are: Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku with Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Tricia Tusa (Little Brown); Blackbeard The Pirate King, illustrated with vintage art (National Geographic); Good Mornin', Ms. America: The U.S.A. in Verse (School Specialty); Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Poems, illustrated by Simon Bartram (Candlewick)(inside spread); Castles: Old Stone Poems with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Dan Burr (Boyds Mills); Black Cat Bone: The Life of Blues Legend Robert Johnson in Verse, illustrated by Gary Kelley (Creative Editions).

Is there anything you would like to add?

Did I mention: Read, read, read? Let me add one more piece of advice: Read.

Cynsational Notes

See more author/illustrator interviews and recommended picture books.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Santa Knows F&Gs and Tantalize ARCs

Yowza! What an exciting few days it has been!

I'm dancing around the house carrying both the F&G for Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton Children's Books, September 2006)(a holiday picture book, 4-up) and the ARC for Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick Press, March 2007)(a YA gothic fantasy, 14-up).

I know, I know, that's me (or at least partly me), and I should probably be circumspect and authorly and dignified, but I just can't help myself.

Steve's art on Santa Knows is just fantastic--playful, fun, and imaginative. It's a particularly kid-friendly Christmas book. I'm thrilled that it's the first one my husband Greg (author interview) and I have written together.

The cover on the ARC for Tantalize is a "teaser" one (just black with the title in a red gothic font). The final art is still in production, but this way the ARCs will be available at BEA (see Convention and Education Schedule from Publisher's Weekly) and other summer-fall conferences. I'll let you know when the final cover art is posted and when each book is officially on sale.

My wonderful web designer Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys has created pages celebrating both books on my site. See Santa Knows and Tantalize to read the flap copy, check out covers, and more!

For those of you attending the conference, I hope you'll look for both titles. That said, please take the "uncorrected proof" label on Tantalize to heart. You're welcome to check out my related post "Cut Ellipses" on Spookycyn for the low-down. In any case, Tantalize review copies will be more broadly distributed in the fall.

Cynsational News & Links

Event planners, please note that my schedule is filling fast for the 2006-2007 school year as well as for fall 2007. I enjoy speaking to a variety of groups--librarians, teachers, writers, kid-and-teen writers--and look forward to hearing from you. See my events information. For writing conferences and workshops, fees vary depending on the size of audience/number of participants and whether I'm asked to offer a keynote, critique manuscripts, etc. Inquire for more information.

My husband and co-author Greg Leitich Smith will join me in leading a breakout session on children's and YA publishing at the Writers' League of Texas 2006 Agents and Editors Conference from June 23 to 25 at the Austin Marriott at the Capitol, 701 East 11th Street, Austin. We hope to see some of you there!

Thank you to Antastasia Suen (author interview) for highlighting Cynsations in "I blog, He Blogs, She Blogs--Do You Blog?" (Book Links, May 2006).

Cynsational News & Links

The Asian American Writers' Workshop is offering "Where I'm Calling From," a new writing project for youth that focuses on capturing personal experiences in the form of creative non-fiction, stories based on real life, essays and journals. WICF is open to youth, grades 9 to 12, from all racial backgrounds in New York City and surrounding areas. All youth who participate in WICF will receive an artist stipend of $200, based on commitment, attendance and participation. Applications accepted and admitted on a rolling basis but no later than June 5, 2006. Applicants will be notified applicants by mid-June. See details and application.

"The Blue Hen Book Award is a children's choice award sponsored by the Children's Services Division of the Delaware Library Association." The 2006 Blue Hen Book Award Winners are: Over In the Ocean: In A Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes (Dawn Publications, 2004)(picture book); The Report Card by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster, 2004)(chapter book); and Contents Under Pressure by Lara M. Zeises (Delacorte, 2004)(teen)(author interview).

Congratulations to Dr. Loriene Roy, a professor in the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin. Loriene will serve as the 2007-2008 President of the American Library Association (ALA). According to the UT School of Information News: "Roy, an Anishinabe (Ojibwe) enrolled on the White Earth Reservation and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, will be the first Native person to serve as ALA president. She joined UT's nationally recognized School of Information in 1987 and currently teaches graduate courses in public librarianship, reference, and library instruction/information literacy." See Loriene's Campaign.

Electronic Rights by Kohel M. Haver, Literary and Arts Attorney, Kohel Haver & Associates from The Purple Crayon.

"Girl Detective" by Colleen Mondor from Bookslut in Training. Highlighted mystery titles include: Jennifer Allison's Gilda Joyce books (publisher bio), Bennett Madison's Lulu Dark books (YA Books Central interview), Elise Broach's Shakespeare's Secret (Henry Holt, 2005)(author interview)(recommendation), and Catherine Fisher's Darkhenge (HarperCollins, 2006)(excerpt).

"It's All About the Book...And a Little Luck, Says Couloumbis:" An Exclusive Authorlink Interview With Audrey Couloumbis, author of The Misadventures of Maude March, Or Trouble Rides a Fast Horse (Delacorte, 2005) by Susan VanHecke from Authorlink, May 2006. Note: Maude March is a rare, girl-powered Western novel.

The first chapter to Midnight Sun (Twilight (Little Brown, 2005) retold from Edward's point of view--I think) is now available on author Stephenie Meyer's website (author interview). Source: The Interactive Reader.
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