Saturday, September 16, 2006

2007 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market

2007 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market edited by Alice Pope (Writer's Digest Books, 2006). "If you long to see your stories or artwork in the hands of young readers, this is the book you'll want to use."

About ten years ago, I quit my government law day job. My goal was to write full-time for children and teenagers, even though I didn't have so much as a rough draft to my name.

I walked from my apartment in Chicago to the Border's at Michigan Avenue and Pearson, asked a bookseller where the writers resource section was, and soon afterward, began pulling anything that looked useful from the shelves.

I remember hesitating to buy the newly minted edition of the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market. After all, I had no manuscript to shop. But it occured to me that the learning curve of the publishing industry was likely as steep as my writing one.

Especially since both are moving targets, that proved to be true.

Back in my postage-stamp-sized apartment, I poured over the articles and took my pink highlighter to the publisher listings.

My first book, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins) was published in 2000. My first 'tween novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins), was published in 2001.

It was a thrill to have my editor-author exchange with Rosemary Brosnan about Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002) featured by Esther Hershenhorn (author interview) in "Dear Writer: When Editorial Letters Invite Revision" in the 2003 edition of the CWIM.

All of which is to say, I have a particular affection for the CWIM, but the 2007 edition is the best I've ever seen. Articles of note include a new one by Esther, "A Writing Teacher's Do's and Don'ts" as well as: "Sucessful Rewriting: Viewing the Big Picture" by Sue Bradford Edwards; "Ten Tips for a Great Query Letter" by Lauren Barnholdt; The Newest Children's Book Imprints" by Alicia Potter; "U.S. vs. U.K. Fiction" by Sara Grant; "Creating Books for the Youngest Reader" by Kelly Milner Halls (author interview); "The New Rules for Teen Lit" by Megan McCafferty;" "Mainstreaming the Graphic Novel" by Patricia Newman; and "Conquering Home Office Clutter" by Hope Vestergaard.

Additional highlighted authors include Cynthia Lord (author interview), Dorian Cirrone (author interview), Elizabeth Bluemle, and Tanya Lee Stone (author interview). I also enjoyed the Insider Report with agent Anna Oswanger.

More personally, I'm quoted on Cynsations in "Blogging for Authors & Illustrators" by Roz Fulcher. Other featured bloggers included Chris Barton, Anastasia Suen, and Don Tate. My website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com is also listed among "Useful Online Resources."

The head genius behind the guide is Alice Pope. Visit Alice's CWIM Blog: Not-Quite-Daily News and Musings from the Editor of the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market.

Cynsational News & Links

I had such a lovely time at my online chat with the Institute of Children's Literature. Thanks to moderator and ICL website editor Jan Fields and everyone who participated!

Read the transcript: "The Pre-Side of Writing with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from ICL, Sept. 14, 2006. My apologies for the typos typical of chat transcripts; my fingers were flying fast.

More News & Links

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has released a new poster in celebration of Banned Books Week, Sept. 23-30. The poster incorporates ABFFE's FREADOM logo and depicts the Statue of Liberty reading a book. The art, by Roger Roth, is from The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History, which was written by Jennifer Armstrong (Random House, 2006). The poster can be downloaded free (PDF file) and printed as an 11" x 17" poster using either a color printer or the services of a local copy shop.

Reminder: The Austin chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators announces its Fall 2006 Conference, "Follow Me" (PDF). The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Texas School for the Deaf at 1102 South Congress in near south Austin. Licensing agent Suzanne Cruise has been recently added to the faculty. Other featured speakers will include agent Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency, author Bruce Coville, author-book doctor Esther Hershenhorn (interview), Clarion associate editor Lynne Polvino, illustrator Tony Sansevero, and illustrator Don Tate (interview)(blog). Faculty also includes Dianna Hutts Aston (interview) and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Learn more about the conference.

Darleene Bailey Beard: official author site includes her biography, books, and events information. Darleen's titles include: The Babbs Switch Story (FSG, 2006); Operation Clean Sweep (FSG, 2004); Twister (FSG, 1999); and The Flimflam Man (FSG, 1998). She is based in Oklahoma.

Take a sneak peek at the cover art for Our Librarian Won't Tell Us ANYTHING! A Mrs. Skorupski Story by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa (Upstart Books, 2006). Read a recent Cynsations interview with Toni.

Congratulations to the Children's Media Professionals' Forum on its one-year anniversary.

"Cultivate Good Writing Manners" by Margot Finke from the Purple Crayon. Read a Cynsations interview with Margot.

Cynsational News & Links Revisited

Reposted for Cynsations LJ subscribers only:

Now Available: Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006). Ages 4-up. Learn more.

Author Inteview: Toni Buzzeo on School Visits (part one and part two) from Cynsations.

More News & Links

Book Burger: "on a mission to connect hungry readers with tasty reads. We serve up authors and books that may not be on the bestseller list, but oughta be on your brain-food menu." Go ahead--take a bite out of the burger!

Not Your Mother's Book Club (Content May Not Be Suitable for Parents): launched by Books Inc., a community for YA lit teen readers. Note: "Authors, librarians, booksellers, teachers, and those who just love teen books are also welcome, but contests and other special treats are for those in grades 7-12 only." A space to "meet each other, meet authors, talk about new books, post book reviews, post stories, and generally have fun." See also Books Inc., The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller.

Author Interview: Brian Anderson on the Zack Proton series from Cynsations.

Illustrator Interview: Yuyi Morales on Los Gatos Black on Halloween. See also Author Interview: Marisa Montes on Los Gatos Black on Halloween, both from Cynsations.

"Beethoven's Five Legless Pianos Inspire Winter's Wacky Kids' Book:" An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Jonah Winter, author of The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven (illustrated by Barry Blitt (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2006)) by Susan VanHecke from Authorlink. September 2006. Note: For registered users (minimal fee), Authorlink also offers An Exclusive Interview With Kathy Dawson, associate editorial director at Harcourt Children’s Books, by Lesley Williams.

NikiBurnham: LJ of the sparkling YA romance author. Look for Do-Over (Simon Pulse, 2006)(excerpt). Read a Cynsations interview with Niki.

Author Jennifer L. Holm is signing her new novel, Penny From Heaven (Random House, 2006), at BookPeople in Austin, Texas; on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

Interview with Debut YA Author Robin Merrow MacCready by Debbi Michiko Florence. Robin is the author of Buried (Dutton, 2006). Learn more about Robin. See also the interview with Robin at TeensReadToo.com.

Read new interviews with Joyce Sidman and Tanya Lee Stone by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer from The Poetry House. Don't miss previous interviews with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O'Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, Marilyn Singer, and Lisa Wheeler. Tracie is the author of Sketches from a Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) and Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007). She also writes teacher guides for other children's book creators and publishers. Read Vaughn Zimmer, Tracie's LJ.

Reminder: The 92nd Street Y Buttenwieser Library and the Jewish Book Council are co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan (New York City) Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final registration deadline is Nov. 11. The conference sold out last year, so register early. Learn more about the conference.

What Makes a Good Thriller: Working with Fear by Nancy Werlin from The Horn Book Magazine. Read a recent Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Check out the photos from author Jo Whittemore's signing for Curse of Arastold (excerpt), Book Two of the Silverskin Trilogy, which kicked off with Escape from Arylon (author interview)(both Llewellyn, 2006). The event was held at Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, which is just outside of Austin. Learn more about the photographer, author Brian Anderson. Note: my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I were there. So was author Varian Johnson.

Syndication Glitches

Cynsations LJ syndication readers, my apologies for the continued interruptions in the transfer. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do from my end. If this persists, I'll look into a regular account and cross post. In the meantime, please click through on the header link. Thank you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Web Designer Interview: Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys on the Launch of www.santa-knows.com

In celebration of the release of my new picture book, Santa Knows, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006), it is my pleasure to announce launch of www.santa-knows.com and to share an interview with the design guru behind it, Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys. Let's hear from Lisa...!

How did you translate Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), the book, into www.santa-knows.com, the website?

With every site design I have to be mindful of that site's audience and purpose. And, to succeed on the Web, every site has to answer a question within a few seconds of loading: "What IS this?"

For Santa-Knows.com, the 'audience' might seem the same as for the book itself: the picture book 'reader.' Except—it isn't.

All children’s publishing and marketing is filtered, first, through the adults who acquire and edit the books, and, next, through the adults who choose the books for the children in their libraries, classrooms and homes.

To plan a site to feature Santa Knows, we had to keep this duality in mind:

1. This is a site about a book meant to appeal to young children.

2. However, except for a precocious few, young children aren't actually going to be reading the site--the adults in their lives are.

Hm, okay. The site needs to show some kid-appeal but needs to make it easy for adults to get the information needed to evaluate the book and perhaps buy it for a child. These practicalities drove the content you provided and the way I presented it.

And--while this may seem obvious--the site needs to show right away what it's about--a specific book about Santa Claus. It's not a site about Santa Claus as a popular figure, or kids' seasonal wish lists, or even how to answer the question, "Is there really a Santa Claus?"

The navigation bar at the top says it all--the site will introduce the book, its authors and illustrator, highlight the cover art, and will list news and reviews as the book begins to build its audience. And, not least! it lets people know how, when, and where to buy the book.

What were the design considerations? The challenges?

With Santa Knows, one thing I wanted to do was show what sets the story apart from the masses of other Santa and Christmas-related material out there.

(This is a seriously funny book!)

We were very fortunate to have Steve Björkman's funny, jolly illustrations as a springboard. I was able to pull the color scheme straight from the book art. So we have a white, snowy background, some cool light blue, hints of bright yellow-gold shininess, and, of course, green and red.

Notice, however, that the hues are slightly off what you usually see--the green is a bit sharper and yellower than the usual Christmas-y green, and the red is more of a candy-red, not the traditional berry-red. It's a subtle difference, but it supports the slightly unorthodox tone of the story.

Steve's cover art--which shows the author and illustrator bylines against a background of ball-ornaments--also inspired me to use a slightly different take on ornaments, this time as 'frames' for photos of the authors and illustrators themselves.

One challenge had to do with the treatment of the overall page space. People are viewing web pages on a variety of screen sizes and resolutions, so there are techniques to make the page seem "full" to those on the bigger displays, but still keep all the important stuff within a certain dimension, so readers don't have to go scrolling all over the place just to read a few lines of text.

So, if you view Santa-Knows.com on a monitor capable of displaying an area larger than 800 x 600 pixels, you'll see that there's a blue and white "snowy" texture filling in the space on each side of the center content. It helps the page seem complete to those viewing on larger monitors, but no actual content is missing for those viewing on the smaller screens.

How about on the technological side? What were the issues and triumphs there?

I got to have a lot of fun with the art for Santa-Knows.com. I usually shy away from recommending any sort of animation on author websites, because so often the effect is cheesy. But some projects really benefit from a little animation. I thought the sparkles that glint off the title words "Santa Knows" were very appropriate. It's like Santa himself is twinkling at us.

I did have to choose between technologies when creating the twinkles. Flash animation is very popular these days, but it does depend on having the right player installed. I didn't want viewers to be confronted with a popup telling them they needed to install something, just to view the site. So, the sparkles are actually three instances of the same tiny .gif animation--an older technique that sometimes gets derided because it was formerly used in clumsy and inartistic ways.

What appealed to you about the project?

1. What's not to like about Santa? It’s happy, fun material.

2. It was finite: just 5 pages to start out. I liked that the ratio of tedious labor to fun stuff was weighted in favor of the fun stuff!

3. It was a chance to work yet again with one of my favorite clients.

What was the timeline from contract to launch, and what were the major events along the way?

As you well know, some sites can take many, many months to develop, but that wasn't the case here. From contract to launch was less than three months, and the actual development time was even less than that--only about a month--but we both had summer travel plans that interrupted the work flow.

More globally, why should authors with established author-oriented sites consider adding a book-specific site to their online marketing efforts? What are the special benefits?

Readers don't always remember author's names, but they do tend to remember titles or at least the main topic. Having a site devoted to one book can make finding your book--and subsequently you, the author--easier for the reader.

(Or, in the case of a picture book, for the parent, teacher or librarian shopping for that reader.)

Another way to look at it is if you write for a wide spectrum of ages, or in a number of genres whose audiences don't tend to overlap, you are more likely to be found through a site devoted to a specific work.

Having both an author-oriented site and book-specific sites means you're giving your readers many more ways and chances of finding you.

What are key considerations in creating a book-specific site?

The audience for a book-specific site is much more focused than for a more general author site.

With author-oriented sites, you need to take care to be very inclusive, so that all the potential audience members for the site are catered to.

With a book-specific site, you have more opportunity to shape the "brand"—all the design elements can complement the design of the book, for example.

A tougher point to consider might be whether you want to include activities or interactive elements. Kids do love games and quizzes, but the development costs can be substantial.

(My advice to authors who bankroll their own sites is to keep things simple. Make sure what you put up is the best it can be. Better to do less stuff, but do it in a really classy way, than to cobble-together a lot of disparate or amateurish elements. On the other hand, if your publisher is paying, by all means push for bells and whistles!)

You've been kind enough to talk to Cynsations before. But could you remind us of your services and where to find out more?

Sure! I specialize in building expressive, unique web sites for individuals (as opposed to businesses or corporations). It's not the most lucrative way to conduct my business, but it is what I enjoy doing and do best. Most of my clients are authors, artists, and educators.

You can find my biz stuff on the web at Hit Those Keys (www.hitthosekeys.com) and I also blog intermittently on writing, design and other, more personal, topics at Wild Keys (www.hitthosekeys.net). Or, feel free to email me at inquiries@hitthosekeys.com.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I happen to believe that the Web is a very exciting medium for authors. There's a very low barrier-to-entry—it is affordable and yet the reach is enormous.

Creating a web presence is a way to grow as a writer/artist/person. It pushes you to get over yourself and reach out. You can pull in an audience from anywhere in the world, test out new voices and material in real time, and get feedback just as quickly.

And, as ever, Cynthia, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to your readers about what I do!

Cynsational Notes

Come visit the official Santa Knows website!

Lisa also is the talented designer behind my main author site at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Now Available: Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, September 2006)

Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006). Ages 4-up. Note: now available.

Alfie F. Snorklepuss doesn't believe in Santa Claus, and he's being a real pest about it. He thinks he's proven that Santa doesn't exist because there's no way that Santa could do all the things he's supposed to, like deliver billions of presents all over the world in one night or know what every little kid wants. And cranky Alfie is everywhere--on TV and radio, in the newspapers--telling boys and girls what he thinks is the truth.

Then, one Christmas Eve, the man in red himself packs up Alfie and brings him to the North Pole for an attitude adjustment, Santa-style....

In this sweet and funny picture book, Santa Knows reminds readers about the importance of being nice, not just at Christmas, but all year round.

Cynthia Leitich Smith was born in a snowstorm on New Year's Eve in Kansas City, Missouri. After college, she went on to study law at the University of Michigan and in Paris. Today, Cynthia writes books for young readers, runs a large children's literature Web site, and makes her home in sunny Austin, Texas, with her husband and coauthor, Greg.

Greg Leitich Smith was born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised in Chicago. After college and graduate school, he went on to the University of Michigan Law School. Today, Greg practices parent law, writes for kids, and lives in Austin with his wife and coauthor, Cynthia.

Steve Björkman has been drawing ever since he can remember—at home, in church, during class, and in most of his spare time. Over the past 25 years, he has illustrated over 70 children’s books, hundreds of greeting cards, thousands of advertising and editorial illustrations, and art on a variety of products from paper goods to picture frames. Steve lives in Irvine, California, with his wife and three kids.

Reminder: Tonight Cynthia Leitich Smith Chats About Pre-Writing at the ICL

Join me for a chat on the "The Pre-side of Writing" with the Institute of Children's Literature.

Just send your questions to WebEditor@institutechildrenslit.com, and then join me on tonight from: 9 to 11 p.m. Atlantic/Canada; 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern; 7 to 9 p.m. Central; 6 to 8 p.m. Mountain; or 5 to 7 p.m. Pacific. Log in here!

Need help? See "I Want to Chat: Tell Me How" by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Cynsational News & Links

Book Burger: "on a mission to connect hungry readers with tasty reads. We serve up authors and books that may not be on the bestseller list, but oughta be on your brain-food menu." Go ahead--take a bite out of the burger!

Not Your Mother's Book Club (Content May Not Be Suitable for Parents): launched by Books Inc., a community for YA lit teen readers. Note: "Authors, librarians, booksellers, teachers, and those who just love teen books are also welcome, but contests and other special treats are for those in grades 7-12 only." A space to "meet each other, meet authors, talk about new books, post book reviews, post stories, and generally have fun." See also Books Inc., The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller.

Every once in a great while, the relationship between Blogger and my LiveJournal syndication goes a little wacky. So, for those who were short-changed recently, I'm re-running the following Cynsational links:

Author Interview: Brian Anderson on the Zack Proton series from Cynsations.

Illustrator Interview: Yuyi Morales on Los Gatos Black on Halloween. See also Author Interview: Marisa Montes on Los Gatos Black on Halloween, both from Cynsations.

"Beethoven's Five Legless Pianos Inspire Winter's Wacky Kids' Book:" An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Jonah Winter, author of The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven (illustrated by Barry Blitt (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2006)) by Susan VanHecke from Authorlink. September 2006. Note: For registered users (minimal fee), Authorlink also offers An Exclusive Interview With Kathy Dawson, associate editorial director at Harcourt Children’s Books, by Lesley Williams.

NikiBurnham: LJ of the sparkling YA romance author. Look for Do-Over (Simon Pulse, 2006)(excerpt). Read a Cynsations interview with Niki.

Author Jennifer L. Holm is signing her new novel, Penny From Heaven (Random House, 2006), at BookPeople in Austin, Texas; on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

Interview with Debut YA Author Robin Merrow MacCready by Debbi Michiko Florence. Robin is the author of Buried (Dutton, 2006). Learn more about Robin. See also the interview with Robin at TeensReadToo.com.

Read new interviews with Joyce Sidman and Tanya Lee Stone by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer from The Poetry House. Don't miss previous interviews with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O'Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, Marilyn Singer, and Lisa Wheeler. Tracie is the author of Sketches from a Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) and Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007). She also writes teacher guides for other children's book creators and publishers. Read Vaughn Zimmer, Tracie's LJ.

Reminder: The 92nd Street Y Buttenwieser Library and the Jewish Book Council are co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan (New York City) Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final registration deadline is Nov. 11. The conference sold out last year, so register early. Learn more about the conference.

What Makes a Good Thriller: Working with Fear by Nancy Werlin from The Horn Book Magazine. Read a recent Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Check out the photos from author Jo Whittemore's signing for Curse of Arastold (excerpt), Book Two of the Silverskin Trilogy, which kicked off with Escape from Arylon (author interview)(both Llewellyn, 2006). The event was held at Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, which is just outside of Austin. Learn more about the photographer, author Brian Anderson. Note: my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I were there. So was author Varian Johnson.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Author-Librarian Interview: Toni Buzzeo on School Visits: Part 2

Toni Buzzeo has quickly established herself as a popular picture book author. We previously talked to her after the publication of her debut title, The Sea Chest, illustrated by Mary GrandPre (Dial, 2002)(author interview), which went on to win a 2002 Lupine Honor Award and the 2004-2005 Children's Crown Gallery Award. We spoke again after the publication of Dawdle Duckling, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2003)(author interview), which was named to the New Jersey State Library Pick of the Decade List. And we checked in for an author update last April.

Today, we have part two of a discussion drawn from Toni's expertise about author/illustrator school visits. Don't miss part one from yesterday!

How can schools and author/illustrator speakers connect with one another?

From the perspective of schools looking for an author/illustrator, the search can seem daunting. As is the case in so many areas of life, personal recommendations are the best and easiest way for a school to locate the ideal visitor.

Some states, or regions of states, maintain a database of recommended authors and illustrators. If schools in a district or region aren't hosting author visits, teachers and librarians can go beyond the local network. At least weekly, someone posts a query or a recommendation to LM_NET, a listserv of more than 17,000 school library media specialists. A librarian might search the archives or post a fresh query of her own.

Another option is to visit authors' personal websites, which often include descriptions of school visits and fees. In order to browse, one can search a database of authors and illustrators with hot links to their personal sites such as the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators list, Kay E. Vandergrift's Author and Illustrator Pages, or my own Authors Who Visit Schools page.

Finally, schools can contact publishers to ask about book creators available for visits. The Children's Book Council maintains a list of their author websites as well.

Authors and illustrators, on the other hand, can make sure that they are listed on all of the above sites. In addition, when one has a great visit at a school, it's wise to ask to be recommended to the educator's colleagues in other schools.

Authors and illustrators should also discuss excellent school visits among themselves and share names and contact information for schools that hire visiting book people and do a fine job of ensuring a valuable experience for their students.

What should a librarian consider in selecting an author/illustrator to invite?

There are two important initial considerations. The first consideration should be the match between the author/illustrator's work and the age of the students as all students will read/hear the author's work in preparation for the visit. The second consideration should be the match between the content of the author's book or his/her presentations and the curriculum of the school or specific grade level or group of students.

Once these two considerations have narrowed the field, information from authors' websites or school visit packets and recommendations from other librarians will provide the necessary information about whether a visitor under consideration will be a good match for the size of group, the type of workshop or presentation, and the cost.

How can author-illustrator speakers promote themselves to librarians at prospective schools?

Unfortunately, there's not one simple answer to this question. First, of course, speakers should be listed in as many databases or listings of visiting authors/illustrators as possible. Second, they should prepare a speaking brochure to hand out to audiences when they speak or appear at teacher/librarian conferences. Third, some authors/illustrators prepare a school visit packet that can be mailed out in response to any serious expressions of interest. Fourth, authors/illustrators may share contact information with each other when a school visit has been particularly successful and recommend each other to their hosts, as well.

Some authors/illustrators do mass brochure mailings to schools in a geographic area. It's important to weigh the time and cost against the returns, but for those with a desire to beef up bookings in a specific geographic area, this can be a useful enterprise.

When possible, mailings should be addressed to the library media specialist by name. He or she is the "information resource" in the building and if he/she is not the person who hires visiting authors, he/she will pass the information along to the right person.

Are there speaking opportunities for YA authors, or is the field largely limited to those who write for younger readers? If the field is limited, what can make a YA author more attractive amidst the competition?

Certainly more authors and illustrators are hired for elementary schools than for middle and high schools, but that doesn't mean that there aren't opportunities to speak to teen audiences.

There are two ways that are especially useful for YA authors to boost their profile with prospective hosts. First, it is enormously helpful to speak at state library and teaching conferences (and national conferences such as the American Association of School Librarians conference, the International Reading Association conference, and the National Council of Teachers of English conference, when possible).

Prospective hosts will hear an author speak at these conferences, have an opportunity to meet them personally and carry home their brochures, and will be more likely to invite them to speak at their schools.

As a side benefit, the author's books are more likely to be nominated for the state children's choice reading lists. This, in turn, will lead to more invitations. In fact, where an author's book is nominated for the state reading list, it is especially helpful to send out a mailing to the librarians in that state seeking speaking opportunities.

Could you tell us about your experiences as a visiting author?

I love to be a visiting author! I have met the most talented teachers and so many wonderful kids. I have had the joy of seeing my books come to life through student art, song, research, and learning. I've watched performances of my books turned into plays, read poems inspired by my books, learned about determining the volume of a lighthouse tower using math, and had countless conversations with students who wonder why I became a writer, what a writer's life is like, or how they can become a writer too. Children have been amazingly generous about sharing their own responses to my work and their dreams for their own futures.

What do you love about it?

I have spent my life as an educator, and I am instantly at home in a school setting and love being there. I am also a "born teacher." There's a part of me that comes alive in front of a group of kids. Most importantly, I genuinely love children and adore the opportunity to meet them, to hear their responses to my work, to teach them what I know, and to learn from them.

What do you wish you could change?

For me, there is seldom anything I'd wish to change except in the rare instances where the host has failed to get the students and teachers involved and invested in preparations and curriculum connections, and the really wonderful opportunity of an author visit is wasted. In those instances, it might have been better to hire a magician for the day.

Could you tell us about the various programs you offer? What is the appeal of each?

A sampling of my various programs includes:

The Author's Path (Grades 1-2 or 3-6, adapted for age level)

Using photographs and story, I share my journey from shy child to published author and all stops in between. Students and teachers love this workshop because it makes clear the origins of each of my stories, the truths of my life that reveal themselves in my fiction.

The Story Behind the Story (Grades 3-8)

In the spirit of historical and natural inquiry--using illustrations, text, and research--I explore the writing and illustrating challenges behind my books The Sea Chest, illustrated by Mary GrandPre (Dial, 2002) and Little Loon and Papa, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2004) and learn the importance of research for both authors and illustrators. Because I share original illustrator sketches as well as finished art, students come away with a better understanding of the illustration process and the role that illustration plays in their own learning from books.

The Author's Career (Grades 5-8)

This workshop, rich with information and delivered with a strong dose of humor, answers the following questions for middle schoolers: Ever wonder about the practical aspects of being an author? What's an author's life like? How much do we get paid? What about rejection and revision? It always generates plenty of questions and lively discussion among my listeners.

Puppet and Flannel Board Play (Preschool-Kindergarten)

The youngest audiences meet the characters of my picture books Dawdle Duckling, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial 20003), Ready or Not, Dawdle Duckling, also illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2004) and Little Loon and Papa through songs, fingerplays, puppets, and flannel board stories. The little ones--and their teachers--love this presentation and leave singing.

Show, Don't Tell--A Writer's Workshop (Grades 3-8)

Through a series of guided writing exercises and group sharing, students learn how to enhance their own natural writing talents and improve their creative work by using revealing detail. It always amazes me how student writing improves in the space of just a single hour!

Along with Jane Kurtz, you are the author of Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links (Libraries Unlimited, 1999). What was the initial inspiration for creating this book?

After Jane Kurtz came to visit my school as a visiting author and we had the experience of planning and executing a superb author visit, I wrote an article about author visits, "The Finely Tuned Author Visit" in Book Links (March 1998). Somehow, that article grew into the idea for a joint book about how to plan really rewarding author and illustrator visits.

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

We first began to think about writing the book in 1997 and by summer of 1998 we had written and sold our proposal. From there, it took us a year to write the book, including all of the interviews with librarians, teachers, authors, and illustrators who so generously told us about their unique and individual school visit experiences. The book was published in November 1999.

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

This was the first book that Jane and I wrote together, though we later published 35 Best Books for Teaching U.S. Regions (Scholastic, 2002), and continue to discuss other books we might write together. That, in itself, was a learning experience. We had to learn how to mesh not only our writing styles but our planning, organizing, and project execution styles! No small task.

If you were going to update Terrific Connections, what new topics would you include?

Because a portion of the book is about "virtual" author visits, using electronic communication to connect, we’d want to update the technology options discussed. For instance, I've recently had the experience of using subscription bulletin board software to work with a class of high school students in Texas who were writing their own children's books. Such software wasn't yet available when the book was published.

In addition, NCLB has come into effect since 1999 when the book was published. This legislation has changed the landscape of American education and has an influence on how many schools (especially those struggling to make Adequate Yearly Progress) perceive anything beyond the rigors of preparing students for the test. It's essential that author visits be understood and planned as useful contributions to student learning and achievement.

Anything you’d like to add?

One of the amazing strengths of Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links is that it has been useful for both educators (librarians and teachers) and authors and illustrators themselves, in equal numbers. Because of that, author/illustrator visits have been improving from both sides of the fence--all to the benefit of the students!

I also have many author/illustrator visit resources on my website, and I hope that readers will stop by to visit and see what's there.

Cynsational Notes

Author-Librarian Interview: Toni Buzzeo on School Visits, Part 1 from Cynsations.

Children's and Young Adult Book Creators: Sites & Multiple Listings and School Visit Resources from my website.

An Author Update Interview with Jane Kurtz from Cynsations.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Author-Librarian Interview: Toni Buzzeo on School Visits: Part 1

Toni Buzzeo has quickly established herself as a popular picture book author. We previously talked to her after the publication of her debut title, The Sea Chest, illustrated by Mary GrandPre (Dial, 2002)(author interview), which went on to win a 2002 Lupine Honor Award and the 2004-2005 Children's Crown Gallery Award. We spoke again after the publication of Dawdle Duckling, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2003)(author interview), which was named to the New Jersey State Library Pick of the Decade List. And we checked in for an author update last April.

For the next two days, though, we're going to be drawing from Toni's expertise about author/illustrator school visits. She'll be discussing such topics as: the benefits to young readers; the changing technological landscape, preparation; the day of the event; follow-up; benefits and challenges to author/illustrator speakers; booking a speaker; promoting visits to school librarians; insights from her own experiences; and Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links, which she co-authored with Jane Kurtz (Libraries Unlimited, 1999).

Thanks so much for talking to us today about school visits. Could you tell us how you developed your expertise?

I'm in the unique position of having been on BOTH sides of the author visit fence! First, I am a career library media specialist (1999 Maine Library Media Specialist of the Year, in fact). In my school, I hosted two-to-four author visits a year and dedicated myself to making them among the best learning events of the school year with strong ties across the curriculum and deep involvement of all of the sub-communities of my school, teachers, staff, students, and parents.

But I am also a children's author myself, and so I currently spend a good deal of my time visiting schools as a visiting author. I work with the schools I visit to create really rich learning experiences around my visits for their students and communities.

As many authors do, I include suggestions for extending my books into the curriculum on my website www.tonibuzzeo.com. Because I'm a big fan of reader's theater and the author of many scripts for published children's books in Library Sparks magazine and in Read! Perform! Learn! 10 Reader’s Theater Projects for Literacy Enhancement (Upstart 2006), I have included reader's theater scripts for three of my four picture books there as well. Furthermore, I've been lucky enough to publish the ultimate book for schools who invite me to visit entitled Toni Buzzeo and YOU by Toni Buzzeo (Libraries Unlimited 2005).

What are the benefits of school visits to young readers?

As federal NCLB legislation has turned the educational focus so heavily toward literacy education in schools, it's more helpful than ever to bring authors and illustrators into libraries and classrooms in order to escape the danger of making literacy into a decoding-only experience. Rather than teaching to a high-stakes test, author visits allow educators to ensure that students love to read and engage with written texts on a meaningful personal level. In this way, author visits are the ultimate literacy experience! They are worth the time invested, energy expended, and money budgeted because they add educational value to literacy efforts in the school and community by:

Connecting kids to books in a powerful way;

Affording kids an appreciation of the creative process;

Modeling career choices from the creative arts;

Tying the content of the author/illustrator's work to learning standards, thus allowing teachers to work smarter, not harder.

The challenges?

Terrific author and illustrator visits require an enormous amount of planning, coordinating, and cheerleading--in addition to a solid funding plan. Because teachers (and administrators) have become so focused on test scores in response to federal legislation, it is sometimes a challenge to convince a community that author visits play an important role in literacy education. Advocates will do well to include the points I made above in their arguments.

Money, of course, is always a challenge as well. Creativity is called for! Some schools have the luxury of district funded visits, but most do not. Many parent-teacher groups raise money for cultural programming including author and illustrator visits. Title I funds are sometimes an option where they do not. Community partnerships with other agencies, including the public library and museums, shouldn't be overlooked and can, in turn, potentially attract community grant funding. Private business funding from a bank or other institution is also a possibility. Finally, many schools fund author visits with proceeds from book sales. Books obtained directly through the publisher at a 40% discount are then sold at cover price, which, at the least, can establish seed money for future visits.

What is the technological landscape (and major considerations) in staging an event for young readers?

Most authors and illustrators today present using PowerPoint, Keynote, or other electronic software program for slide presentation. It is important to discuss technology requirements with the visitor to ensure that: a) the necessary hardware is available to support the presentation; b) the venue is adequate to the technology needs; c) all component hardware can "talk;" and d) there are no surprises on the day of the visit.

For large group presentations, it is wise to provide a lavaliere microphone to save the author's voice for multiple presentations. Librarians should also consider the need for a floor mic if student questions are planned in a large setting.

As a librarian, what preparation is necessarily for a successful school visit?

An excellent school visit requires careful planning and attention to details starting with a contract.

To begin, unless the author or illustrator has a standard contract, the librarian will generate one that protects both the school and the visitor from misunderstandings. A generic model contract is available on my website. I advise that both the librarian (or hiring teacher) and the principal sign the contract to afford the school and the visitor the best protection against misunderstandings down the road.

Scheduling is the next important detail. It should be discussed with the visitor in advance, including number of sessions per day, size of groups, venue, and equipment needs. In planning the schedule, 15-20 minute breaks should be included between sessions as well as a relaxing lunch away from a noisy cafeteria.

The final important detail is book sales, which may be handled in many ways, from individual pre-ordering of books to after school or evening signing events. Books can be obtained from a local bookseller, the publisher, or even, in some cases, the author or illustrator.

In addition to the details, it is essential that librarians create curriculum connections to the authors work as classroom teachers prepare students for the visit.

First, of course, students need to have read/listened to the author's work. Librarians must make it clear to teachers that this is a non-negotiable expectation for participation in the visit. Next, the librarian, who is intimately familiar with the author's work, should think ahead to the potential curriculum connections the visit can generate in the classroom and library and share these ideas with teachers. Authors and illustrators always report having had wonderful experiences at schools who took the time to create curriculum connections.

There are many excellent examples of curriculum connections for the work of various authors in my book Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Real Space and Virtual Links by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz (Libraries Unlimited 2002)(interview with Jane).

What do you need to ensure happens during the day of the event?

In order to be certain that the visit day itself is a smooth-sailing success, the librarian will have to juggle the schedule, student behavior, facilities and technology, book sales and signing, transportation and lodging, and the author's comfort. Above all, he/she will need to be sure that the author is PAID that day.

To read an "Author Wish List" that encompasses all of these things, written by fellow author illustrator colleagues and myself, I invite readers to visit my website.

What follow-up is required?

Once the host has written a thank you note to the visitor and mailed it along with some student responses and a letter of recommendation (if requested), it is essential to have many copies of the author's books available for student check-out, of course, and for continued curriculum work in the classroom. In addition, both teachers and librarians will want to reinforce concepts introduced in the visitor's presentation and allow students to work with these concepts to make the learning personal and lasting.

An author/illustrator visit should never be the event of a single day. Reverberations in the learning community can be felt over the course of the remainder of the academic year with careful attention.

As a former school librarian, could you tell us about a couple of your most positive school visit experiences?

Two of my most memorable visits were from author Jane Kurtz and illustrator Melissa Sweet.

Jane's visit was one of my early author visits, long before Jane and I wrote a book about author visits, Terrific Connections with Authors, Illustrators, and Storytellers: Read Space and Virtual Links by Toni Buzzeo and Jane Kurtz (Libraries Unlimited 2002). What makes Jane's visits unique is not only her obvious comfort with students and schools (she is a lifelong educator) but her extraordinary life story, which informs her books.

Jane grew up in Ethiopia and is now president of the board of directors of the first children's library in Ethiopia, EBCEF. Her presentations combine amazing slides of her childhood and adult experiences in Africa with real objects from Ethiopia that students can see, smell, touch, and hear. She is a favorite wherever she goes--and I have recommended her across the country for many years.

Melissa's visit was also memorable for so many reasons. She is a charming and friendly illustrator whom children instantly warm to. During her slide presentations, students are rapt by photos of her studio, the travels that inspire her books, and her illustrations in their many stages. But even more, she engages students in their own creative process, sharing with them techniques that they can bring to their own drawing and painting and encouraging them to try new techniques. My students were wild about these hands-on opportunities with Melissa.

Any clunkers, and why?

I was lucky to only have one somewhat challenging author visit. In this case, the author contacted me, as she was planning to be in my area. Because her book was set in our state and our fourth graders were engaged in their annual state studies unit, I did invite her for a visit. However, her presentation was exceedingly low key. She sat in a chair throughout her time with students and failed to exude much energy or animation. Since nine-year-olds are all about energy, there was a significant mismatch. My students were very polite throughout both presentations but teachers told me later that they were disappointed by the lack of liveliness on the part of the presenter and their students' corresponding lack of excitement.

What are the benefits of school visits to authors and/or illustrators?

Authors and illustrators gain much from school visits as do the schools they visit. They have the opportunity to interact with their primary readers--children or teens--in meaningful ways and to hear, first hand, how their books affect these readers. They also have a chance to hear about the concerns and interests of these readers--and their teachers--which may generate ideas for future books. Of course, because writing and illustrating are isolated professions, just the camaraderie of a day with others is sometimes welcome. And, in financial terms, author visits can generate a steady and reliable income that supplements unpredictable book advances and royalties!

The challenges?

For some authors and illustrators, the challenges are personal. It can be overwhelming for a quiet or introverted person without much school experience to spend the day with hundreds of children or teens and all of their teachers and support staff. More often, however, it is the poorly planned and executed visit that is the challenge. Inappropriate presentation spaces, unprepared students, last-minute or unreasonable schedule changes--all of these and more can pose challenges that can ruin a promising event for the author or illustrator.

As a children's/YA book creator, what preparation is necessarily for a successful school visit?

While some authors do little to prepare for a visit and plan only to show up and answer student questions, and some illustrators plan simply to show up and sketch, I feel that this short-changes the students and their learning.

Instead, I think that it is essential that authors give time and attention to preparing a variety of presentations that include visuals as well as rich content about the writing/illustrating process, or the content of their books, or their life experiences, or other subjects unique to the author and his or her working life.

We authors have unique experience to share with our young readers. Of course, writing and illustrating workshops that focus on teaching students specific skills are also very welcome in schools.

I advise authors and illustrators to work with their host/contact to refine their programs for the needs of the individual school each time they plan a visit.

What do you need to ensure happens during the day of the event?

I invite authors and illustrators to refer to the Author Wish List on my website. It is best not to assume that schools understand the importance of scheduling, managing student behavior, setting up facilities and technology, arranging book sales and signings, providing transportation and lodging, and looking after author comfort. It is also best not to assume that they will pay on the day of the visit. Rather, I advise authors to discuss all of these things in written and phone conversations with the host and put the most important of them into a signed contract.

What follow-up is required?

A personal, hand-written thank you note is essential. The visitor should also be sure to provide any signed bookplates, additional book copies, bibliographies, or the many small things that teachers ask about during the course of the day.

Cynsational Notes

Author-Librarian Interview Toni Buzzeo on School Visits, Part 2 from Cynsations.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Author Interview: Brian Anderson on the Zack Proton series

Brian Anderson on Brian Anderson: "When people ask me what my favorite books were from my childhood, I have to admit that I didn't read very many books as a kid. We had six kids in the house, and about that many books. We had The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, but not The Cat in the Hat. I think I was in high school the first time I ever read The Cat in the Hat. Two books that stand out as childhood favorites, though, are the picture book The Blah by Jack Kent, which I checked out regularly from the school library, and an old coverless copy of the Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Dictionary that was missing a few pages at the beginning and the end. It sounds strange, but the Dr. Seuss dictionary is the book I remember reading most from my childhood.

"Instead of books, I read comics. Tons and tons of comics, starting with old Harvey comics--Richie Rich, Casper, Hot Stuff, and Little Dot. I also read thousands of Archie Comics in the early 1970s. As an 11-year-old in 1973, I got hooked on superhero comics from DC and Marvel. My interest eventually expanded into comic books of all sorts, and today I have about 16,000 comics in my collection. Thanks to eBay, I also have The Blah by Jack Kent and a copy of the old Dr. Seuss dictionary, complete with the cover and all the pages."

Brian is the author of The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton series from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. Titles include The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Red Planet (June 2006) and The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Warlords of Nibblecheese (October 2006). He lives in the Austin area.

How did writing first call to you?

In high school I used to play a lot of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. But my dungeons weren't just underground rooms full of orcs waiting to be killed; they were more like stories in which the characters were the protagonists. The players had a goal to achieve, and there were obstacles to overcome and plot twists along the way.

In college I made up an adventure that I was particularly proud of--it had a great twist at the end--but one of the characters got an unlucky die roll early on and suffered a major injury, and the players decided to turn around and take a safer route, and missed out completely on the cool story I had spent so much time creating. I decided to start writing fiction after that, so I could have control over all the die rolls.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles?

Sprints, stumbles, and setbacks, I've had them all. Skipping all the years leading up to it, Zack Proton was a sprint. It was a slush pile submission that caught the eye of an editor at Simon & Schuster in my first round of query letters. She loved it from the start, but the project had to be redesigned and massively rewritten before she was able to convince S&S to buy it. Zack Proton was originally intended as a traditional chapter book, with ten chapters and about 7000 words, but the final version is 19 chapters, about 4500 words, has illustrations on every page, and is full of goofy little asides like top ten lists, comic strips, and Zack Proton's Tips for Young Space Heroes.

Congratulations on the publication of the Zack Proton series (Aladdin, 2006-). What was your initial inspiration for writing these books?

Thanks! In 2003, I was asked to teach a computer class to fourth graders. To help them learn the inner components of a computer (hard drive, RAM chips, etc.), I planned to make up a series of worksheets about a fictional cyberspace commander who had lost his crew inside a computer. The students would learn about each component as the commander searched around looking for them. There wasn't enough time to draw up the worksheets before the class began, but that was the spark that eventually evolved into Zack Proton searching outer space for his lost ship.

What was the timeline from spark to publication of the first book (The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Red Giant), and what were the major events along the way?

My first story notes are dated February 9, 2003, and the book hit the stands on May 16, 2006. Most of the delay in between was due to me doing nothing. I spent a leisurely six months writing the first Zack Proton book, working on and off without a deadline. I didn't do anything with the manuscript for about a year after that, just some occasional tweaking while I worked on other projects. I sent out the first round of query letters in June, 2004, and in October an editor at Simon & Schuster asked to see the rest of the manuscript.

The next four months involved meetings, discussions, phone calls, e-mails, my editor going on vacation, rewrites, rejections, more rewrites, and finding the right illustrator. When the smoke finally cleared, Simon & Schuster offered me a three-book deal in March, 2005. The final manuscript was complete by then, so it was fourteen months from acceptance of the manuscript to publication.

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

The biggest challenge was reformatting the story from a traditional chapter book into the wacky format it ended up in. My editor told me I had to cut the word count from 7000 words to 4000, but the story was pretty lean to begin with and there just wasn't a lot of room for cuts.

The first thing I did was snip out a thousand words of description because Doug Holgate's illustrations would take their place, but after that things started getting pretty painful.

I begged my editor for a higher word count, but she wouldn't budge. In the end, I submitted a 4000 word draft that I hated. My editor hated it too, and so did everybody else who read it. I was convinced the project was dead then--things looked so grim that my editor even encouraged me to keep submitting Zack Proton to other publishers. That's never a good sign! But she never gave up on the project. We did another round of rewrites to restore some of the most painful cuts, and she was able to sell that version. The final manuscript ended up around 4800 words.

What did Doug Holgate's illustrations bring to the stories?

Doug's illustrations really make the books come alive. He has such a unique creative vision that one of the best things for me about writing Zack Proton is when I get to see Doug's illustrations for the first time. Sometimes Doug goes off with his own ideas--his vision of Big Large in the first book didn't match my description at all, but I laughed out loud when I saw his version of the evil space giant, and immediately went in to change the text. Having Doug on the series has challenged my own creativity, because I want to come up with highly visual stories that give him the opportunity to showcase his talents.

What do you love about your writing life?

All kinds of things! I love the flexible hours, the feeling of satisfaction from finishing a manuscript, and the chance to talk with kids about writing and publishing. Sometimes the writing process itself is about as much fun as folding the sock load, but overall the whole process of creating a story and characters is uniquely rewarding.

What are its tougher aspects?

Screenwriter Terry Rossio says that being a writer is like having homework every night, and a lot of it. When I'm in the zone and the writing is flying along, it's one of the best feelings in the world. That happened to me in 1996. The rest of the time writing can feel an awful lot like doing homework. The hardest part for me is continuing to write a first draft even when I know it's bad and will have to be rewritten. It feels like a waste of time. But writing that first draft is the only way to get to the final copy.

What advice do you have for beginning authors?

Write every day if you can. You will either develop a habit of writing or a habit of not-writing, and either habit, once it's formed, is hard to break.

How about series writers specifically?

Chapter books are usually plot-driven, and character development takes place more slowly, so you always have to be thinking a few books ahead to know where your characters are headed.

Also, if the series is going to unfold chronologically, as Zack Proton does, then it's important to keep sowing seeds along the way. For example, in the second Zack Proton book, Zack breaks something in the back of the ship, but I never say what it is, because at the time I wrote it, I didn't know. In book three, Omega Chimp needs something to help save a planet, and that's when I figured out what it was that Zack broke in book two. Also in book two, Omega Chimp gets a parking ticket on his spaceship, but we never see him pay it. You know that's going to come back to haunt them later!

What do you do when you're not reading or writing?

I have two daughters in middle school that am very involved with. I spend a lot of time with them and doing volunteer work at their school. I also teach chemistry at the University of Texas, and I make elaborate pinatas in the hot summer months. Some of my pinatas are online at www.pinataboy.com.

What can your fans look forward to next?

In the Zack Proton books, Zack will soon meet his space hero idol Sam Spaceway, and find out that things are not always as they appear. Omega Chimp will learn that he has an arch-nemesis of his own, and those 10,000 FE-203 robots that disappeared along with their crazed inventor are still out there somewhere... Other projects I'm working on are a middle grade fantasy novel and an anthology of horror stories.

Cynsational News & Links

"Beethoven's Five Legless Pianos Inspire Winter's Wacky Kids' Book:" An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Jonah Winter, author of The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven (illustrated by Barry Blitt (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2006)) by Susan VanHecke from Authorlink. September 2006. Note: For registered users (minimal fee), Authorlink also offers An Exclusive Interview With Kathy Dawson, associate editorial director at Harcourt Children’s Books, by Lesley Williams.

NikiBurnham: LJ of the sparkling YA romance author. Look for Do-Over (Simon Pulse, 2006)(excerpt). Read a Cynsations interview with Niki.

Author Jennifer L. Holm is signing her new novel, Penny From Heaven (Random House, 2006), at BookPeople in Austin, Texas; on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

Interview with Debut YA Author Robin Merrow MacCready by Debbi Michiko Florence. Robin is the author of Buried (Dutton, 2006). Learn more about Robin. See also the interview with Robin at TeensReadToo.com.

Read new interviews with Joyce Sidman and Tanya Lee Stone by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer from The Poetry House. Don't miss previous interviews with Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Ralph Fletcher, Kristine O'Connell George, Nikki Grimes, Heidi Roemer, Marilyn Singer, and Lisa Wheeler. Tracie is the author of Sketches from a Spy Tree, illustrated by Andrew Glass (Clarion, 2005) and Reaching for the Sun (Bloomsbury, 2007). She also writes teacher guides for other children's book creators and publishers. Read Vaughn Zimmer, Tracie's LJ.

Reminder: The 92nd Street Y Buttenwieser Library and the Jewish Book Council are co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan (New York City) Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final registration deadline is Nov. 11. The conference sold out last year, so register early. Learn more about the conference.

What Makes a Good Thriller: Working with Fear by Nancy Werlin from The Horn Book Magazine. Read a recent Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Check out the photos from author Jo Whittemore's signing for Curse of Arastold (excerpt), Book Two of the Silverskin Trilogy, which kicked off with Escape from Arylon (author interview)(both Llewellyn, 2006). The event was held at Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, which is just outside of Austin. Learn more about the photographer, author Brian Anderson. Note: my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I were there. So was author Varian Johnson.
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