Saturday, November 25, 2006

YA Novelist Cecil Castellucci To Debut Graphic Novel

For Graphic Novels, A New Frontier: Teenange Girls by George Gene Gustines from The New York Times. Don't miss this article, which among other news of note mentions: "The first Minx graphic novel will be 'The P.L.A.I.N. Janes,' written by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Jim Rugg."

I had the honor of taking a sneak peek at Cecil's book at NCTE/ALAN, and as a girl who's been loving graphic novels since they were still called "comic books" (age five, actually), I strongly encourage checking out this one.

Read a Cynsations interview with Cecil on Boy Proof (Candlewick, 2005) and another on Queen of Cool (Candlewick, 2006).

Cynsational News & Links

Thanks to the Barnes & Noble Sunset Valley for today's successful Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) storytime and signing. Celebrity sightings included author Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrator Don Tate (interview).

White, Bray Win TSRA Golden Spur Awards

Texas State Reading Association's Golden Spur Children's-YA Awards have been announced. They honor work by Texas authors.

The winner was Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083 by Andrea White (Eos/HarperCollins) and the honor books were The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Hyperion)(author interview) and Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About A Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart by Pat Mora (Knopf)(recommendation).

The YA award went to Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (Delacorte)(author interview), and the honor books were Light Years by Tammar Stein (Knopf) and Let Me Play, The Story of Title IX: The Law That Changed the Future for Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal (Simon & Schuster).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Syndication Glitches

Cynsations and Spookycyn LJ readers, please click the link to read my posts at Blogger. My apologies for the connection acting up. This happens periodically and always seems to resolve itself. Thanks for your patience.

Cynsational News & Links

The Secret of the Rose by Sarah L. Thompson (Greenwillow, 2006) Official Website: invites visitors into Elizabethan London but challenges them first to a quiz on the setting ("Do you know enough to survive HERE?"). Visitors may also register to win a free copy of the book as well as learn more about the title and its author. Read an excerpt.

Take a sneak peek at The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell, illustrated by Connie McLennan (Sylvan Dell, April 2007).

"Thankful for Reading:" check out the candidates for the Cybil Non-Fiction Picture Book at Bartography.

"Why I Write Multicultural Books" by Cynthia Chin-Lee from PaperTigers.

More on NCTE/ALAN 2006

Here's highlighting author Sneed B. Collard III., who was on the "Picture This" panel with me at the ALAN workshop. Sneed's recent books include Flashpoint (Peachtree, 2006), which was nominated for the Green Earth Book Award; Shep: Our Most Loyal Dog, illustrated by Joanna Yardley (Sleeping Bear, 2006); Dog Sense (Peachtree, 2005), which won a 2005 ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award; The Prairie Builders: Reconstructing America's Lost Grasslands (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), which also won a 2005 ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Award; and One Night in the Coral Sea, illustrated by Robin Brickman (Charlesbridge, 2005), which was a NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book and a recipient of the John Burroughs Award for nature writing. In addition, Sneed has been selected as the winner of the Washington Post--Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award for 2006 and winner of the AAAS 2006 Subaru/SB&F Prize. Find out more about all of his books!

"Howdee! On Life in Opryland!!!" an NCTE/ALAN report on Coe Booth. Includes reference photos. See also my NCTE and ALAN reports, which link to numerous others.

"Last Day in Nashville" from Reading, Writing, Etc.--the final of a fantastic series of photo-blogger posts. Bravo!

"My Top Takes on ALAN 2006" from David Gill, ALAN President-Elect for San Antonio 2008. Greg and I are honored to be referred to as "the dynamic duo of writerdom" and we hold up our "Road Warrior Trophy" with appreciation.

Thanks to Debbi Michiko Florence at One Writer's Journey: The Bumpy Road for her shout out to the NCTE/ALAN conference participants. Thanks also to Liz Gallagher and Carrie Jones for their comments on my NCTE report (glad Carrie enjoyed Tantalize; hoping Liz likes it too--thanks so much for your enthusiasm!).

Cynsational Notes

Attention: College Station! Greg and I will be appearing on "TV Magazine" with Sharon Colson #0648 to discuss Santa Knows at 7 p.m. Nov. 29, 6 p.m. Dec. 2, and 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on KAMU TV in your area. Double check local listings to confirm show times.

Thanks to the Junior League of Austin for its hospitality during "A Christmas Affair!" We sold out 75 copies of Santa Knows in four hours on Nov. 16 because of your enthusiasm and tremendous organizational efforts.

Thanks to the Twig Book Shop in San Antonio for hosting our signing on Nov. 24! Greg and I did a storytime to a crowd of about 30 (about 20 of whom were kids whose activity it was to write a letter to Santa), sold fifteen books, and signed six copies of stock. Special thanks to San Antonio writer Carmen Richardson for joining us today!

"Jingle Dancer" from Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy. Notes on my first book and a tie-in puppet show. Thanks, Liz! Most appreciated!

"A String of Bright Lights: Great Blogs about Children's and Young Adult Literature" by Pooja Makhijani from PaperTigers. Thanks, Pooja, for highlighting Cynsations!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Picture This: Picture Books for Young Adults: Notes from ALAN 2006

The following Q&A was developed in response to tentative questions for a panel, "Picture This: Using Picture Books to Connect Teens with Young Adult Literature," hosted by Sunya Osborn of Nebo School District in Spanish Fork, Utah at the ALAN Workshop 2006 in Nashville.

The panel featured Paul Janeczko, Sneed Collard, and me--Cynthia Leitich Smith. Due to time constraints, questions below were combined and/or omitted at the live session.

As promised at the conference, I'm offering these notes for the use of ALAN attendees and anyone else with an interest in the topic. See my full ALAN report. Thanks again to everyone at ALAN for their professionalism, hospitality, and great company!

Why do you write picture books rather than novels?

I write both.

I'm the author of two picture books, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000) and Santa Knows, co-authored by my husband Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006).

Jingle Dancer is the story of Jenna, who--with the aid of four women of her intertribal family and community--assembles her jingle dance regalia and then dances to honor them at a powwow.

Santa Knows is the story of Alfie, who tries to disprove the existence of Santa Claus until he's kidnapped and brought to the North Pole by the jolly old elf himself, and of his sister Noelle, who wants a nicer big brother for Christmas.

I'm also the author of a 'tween (or middle school or young YA novel), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001). It tells the story of Cassidy Rain Berghoff, a mixed blood girl from northeast Kansas who, after the unexpected death of her best friend, slowly reconnects to her family and intertribal community through the lens of a camera.

My latest novel is Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), the story of Quincie P. Morris, who must make-over the dorky new-hire chef at her family's vampire-themed Italian restaurant while rumors swirl that her best friend-first love may have murdered the original chef.

That said, the initial spark for my picture books versus novels is different.

With picture books, I often am struck with a concept or several. For example, with Jingle Dancer, I was interested in telling a story of reciprocity, one of girls and women over generations, offering an antidote to stereotyped, inaccurate images of Native women, and I wanted to show--without addressing it specifically within the text--the full interracial diversity of especially southeast Indians.

On the latter, depictions of biracial characters of Native-white heritage are not unusual; however, those of characters with African-Native American heritage are quite rare. This is an important population, historically and still today. The illustrators and I sought to show the full range of the beauty of the people, and we did.

With novels, I'm more likely to begin with a question. With Rain Is Not My Indian Name, the question was: how do we begin to heal after sudden death? It was inspired by the death of one of my classmates during high school. It's a grief-healing story.

With Tantalize, the question was: how can girls stand strong and independent in a world that's so monstrous at times? It's a contemporary feminist recast of the gothic fantasy tradition, a genre bender that also incorporates mystery, suspense, comedy, romance, and multiculturalism. It's also a book that signals my expanding from "what what you know" to also focus on "write what you love to read." I've been a devoted fan of horror since I was a teenager.

Do you write for a specific age group? If so, what techniques do you use?

Really, target-market age group evolves as a natural extension of the protagonist's age and the content and style of the text. I don't think to myself: "four year olds like this or that" and then try to work those elements into the story.

What's important to remember, though, about picture books is that they are books to be read to, not books for independent reading. Therefore, they often are appropriate not only for the traditional age four and up group, but also older children, teens, and even adults.

How are picture books of interest to young adults?

Picture books are especially attractive to reluctant readers and visual thinkers. I have a theory that these are often one in the same, or at least that there's a significant overlap.

The appeal here is similar to that of graphic novels. A particularly successful hybrid of the two is the hilarious and brilliantly designed Sea Dogs: An Oceanic Operetta by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Mark Siegel (Richard Jackson/Atheneum, 2004)(author interview).

In addition, picture books can deepen understanding. I recommend using picture book fiction and non-fiction to give a rounded overview of a topic before engaging in a deeper exploration.

For example, a book like Jingle Dancer could be used with, say, The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz, illustrated by Sharol Graves (Children's Book Press, 1998), to introduce Native American literature or culture units.

How do picture books connect young adult readers to YA fiction?

I'm a big believer in pairings. Teachers have had great luck using Jingle Dancer to introduce books like Rain Is Not My Indian Name and Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005)(anthologist interview).

A few other examples of pairings: Newbery Honor picture book Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott (Penguin, 2005) as an introduction to the novel Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum, 2006); Bruce Coville's picture book retelling of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Dennis Nolan (Dial, 1999) with Sharon Draper's contemporary YA retelling Romiette and Julio (Simon Pulse, 2001); and Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein, by Sharon Darrow illustrated by Angela Barrett (Candlewick, 2003)(author interview) with Angelmonster by Veronica Bennett (Candlewick, 2006)(excerpt).

How can you use picture books as models for writing?

Picture books are wonderful tools for studying story structure (provided the book in question has a strong structure to start with). Students can identify the introduction to character/setting, introduction of conflict, rising action, crisis, epiphany, resolution, falling action, and conclusion. Then they may be better able to apply those to their own fiction writing. Santa Knows has a strong classic story structure.

Picture books also can be used to introduce different literary techniques. For example, Jingle Dancer is built around the number four--Jenna goes in four directions to four women to collect four rows of jingles and then dances as the fourth jingle dancer at the powwow--rather than the more commonly used number three.

In addition, picture books can offer young writers visual references. In my own writing process, I have a particular fondness for photoessay picture books. For example, in Tantalize, shapeshifter characters include werewolves, werecats, wereoppossums, and werearmadillos. One of the first steps I took in pre-writing was to order picture books about each of these animals as launching points for my descriptions.

If you could recommend one of your books to use with YAs, which one would it be?

Maybe it's the novelist in me, but I'm still go with Rain Is Not My Indian Name for tweens and Tantalize for older teens. However, I would encourage teachers to introduce them with paired picture books. Heavy Metal publishes a graphic-format picture book retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula (2005) that might work well with older teens interested in Tantalize.

I'd also like to mention that, although picture books offer many educational benefits to teens, many also are intrinsically worth studying as great works of literature and art. With so much pressure on kids to read at grade level or above, I fret that they may be missing out on fully appreciating this body of literature when they are at the target age range. It's better late than never to catch up.

Cynsational Notes

See my recommended bibliography of picture books, and Planet Esme's Book-A-Day Plan.

Picture book biographies often are a great fit for YA readers; see Anneographies: Picture Book Biographies from Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster, 2005)(author interview)(blogger interview).

Bartography from Chris Barton is a great blog for non-fiction children's books. Chris is the author of The Day-Glo Brothers (Charlesbridge, 2008).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ALAN Nashville Report

I'm just back home in Austin from the ALAN 2006 workshop, "Young Adult Literature: Key to Open Minds," at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.

The workshop followed the NCTE conference. It was large, with 480ish in attendance, and sponsoring publishers provided tons of giveaway copies of the participating authors' books (presented in big brown boxes to be shipped via FedEx).

With the exception of one breakout option each day, all programs were offered to the group as a whole, and autographings were quiet but busy affairs in the back of the main room. (I signed many, many copies of Jingle Dancer (Morrow/Harper, 2000) and the Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) ARC.

The event opened on Sunday night with the ALAN party where I met Sarah Dessen and Marc Aronson's (author interview) young son, both for the first time. Sarah seems thoughtful, upbeat, and warm--much like one would expect from her books. Marc's son was shy, clinging to his legs. It was a treat to see Marc. The last time we were together was two residencies ago on the Vermont College MFA faculty. I kept trying to introduce him to Greg, but the three of us were never in the same place at the same time.

From there, I joined the HarperCollins family dinner at F. Scotts, where I enjoyed the salmon, the Art Deco decor, and getting to know Peter Abrahams.

The next day Greg spoke on the panel, "I Laughed So Hard I Cried" along with Jordan Sonnenblick (author interview), Lauren Myracle, and E. Lockhart (author interview). The chair was April Bannon of ASU in Tempe. It was a sparkling panel--smart, funny, a fitting way to end the day. They did something unusual in reading from each other's books. I liked that.

Other panels I especially enjoyed included "Don't Look and It Will Go Away: YA Books, A Key to Uncovering the Invisible Problem of Bullying," featuring Patrick Jones, Nancy Garden (author interview), and Julie Ann Peters (author interview). Emphasis was placed on the role of bullying in school shootings and the heightened targeting of GLBTQ teens in schools as well as what teachers could do in response. Julie shared excerpts from reader letters, which was quite affecting, and on a lighter note, has the most divine new short-cropped red haircut.

I'd also like to highlight "Romance in YA Literature: More than Meets the Eye" with Brenda Woods, Sarah Dessen, and David Levithan. Brenda mentioned that interracial dating relationships (specifically African American-Latino) are addressed in her work. Sarah talked about writing stories with a love theme that had a literary depth to them. David was a strong, funny speaker who made good points about writing love stories involving gay characters.

It was a particular thrill for me to attend a breakout session, "What a Novel Idea: New Ideas for Telling Tales in Young Adult Literature." Featured books were Autobiography of My Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (Amistad, 2005); Rubber Houses by Ellen Yeomans (Little Brown, 2007); The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (Dial, 2006)(author interview); The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child by Michael Buckley (book 3 of the series)(Amulet, 2006); Refugees by Catherine Stine (Random House, 2005); and my own forthcoming YA gothic fantasy novel, Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007).

In presenting Tantalize, enthusiastic and bubbly ASU graduate student Elle Wolterbeek offered fantastic tie-in overheads (Michael J. Fox in "Teen Wolf," Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and many more). She also made a number of glowing points about Tantalize and pointed out: "Readers familiar with Tom Romano's alternative styles and blended voices will also enjoy this book as it employs...signs, advertisements and menus to tell the story, and teachers implementing multiple voice writing in their classroom will find a wonderful resource in this text..." Thanks, Elle!

Greg and I had dinner that night with the Candlewick family on Monday at Mambu. I ordered YoMama's Chicken with crayfish baked mac and cheese--decadent and delicious. Cecil Castellucci (author interview), Deborah Noyes, and Don Gallo were in attendance.

Afterward, Greg and I enjoyed a late-night boat ride through the Delta section of the hotel with Cecil and John Green. We saw catfish, ducks, and plants from around the world. It was most memorable for the great company.

Tuesday's highlight was John's mini keynote, which was brave, brilliant, hilarious, and insightful--quite possibly the best speech I've heard in six years of attending national conferences. It deserved its standing ovation.

My panel, "Picture This: Using Picture Books to Connect Teens with Young Adult Literature" was scheduled from 11:05 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. The panel was hosted by Sunya Osborn, of Nebo School District in Spanish Fork, Utah, and also featured Paul Janeczko and Sneed Collard. See my notes and expanded resources on the topic.

Afterward, I was whisked away for an author interview for The ALAN Review, and it was a wonderful experience, though I'm dashed at having to have missed "Keying In To New Voices in Young Adult Literature" with Paul Volponi, Cecil Castellucci, Coe Booth, and Kristen Smith. Yay, new voices! (Fortunately, I had other opportunities for quality time with Miss C.).

That day, I especially enjoyed "YA Anthologies: Opening Young Adult Readers to Diverse Views" with Michael Cart, Don Gallo, and Deborah Noyes (author interview). I appreciated what Deborah said about wanting to offer work that was both popular with teens and literary.

Also memorable was a breakout session with Bryan Gillis of ASU and Helen Hemphill (author interview) on "Reading with the Writer's Eye: Integrating Writing Instruction with Young Adult Literature." Bryan and I are in agreement that our favorite M.T. Anderson title is Burger Wuss (Candlewick, 2001)(author interview).

Additional sightings included: Tamora Pierce; Teri Lesesne; Gail Giles (in a stunning, full-length black dress)(author interview); Jane Yolen (author interview); Catherine Balkin; Robert Lipsyte; Chris Crutcher; and Ellen Schreiber. See Teri's Power Point presentation on audio books. See also the ALAN authors list.

This morning, Greg and I had the most ideal travel experience one could imagine for the day before Thanksgiving. The Gaylord Opryland called a stretch limo for us (at regular cab rate), and we had a smooth flight on Southwest Airlines. Along the way, I buried my nose in Cecil's latest and best novel to date, Beige (Candlewick, 2007)--amazing voice--and he studied What Are You Afraid Of? Stories About Phobias edited by Donald R. Gallo (Candlewick, 2006).

Thanks again to Candlewick and HarperCollins for sponsoring me to the event and to the ALAN officers and Nashville members who worked so hard on a successful conference! It was an honor to be included in such inspiring company.

Cynsational Notes

It was a special treat to visit with Sara Zarr (author interview) at her first national conference.

See more NCTE/ALAN reports from: The Goddess of YA Literature; Reading, Writing, Etc.; Good Times and Noodle Salad; The Divine Miss Pixie Woods (Dolly forever!); Sarah Dessen; and John Green (here's hoping his re-entry into reality was a smooth one); The Boyfriend List; and GregLSBlog.

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti and A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy for linking to my NCTE report.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NCTE Nashville Report

Reporting live from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center at NCTE in Nashville.

Greg Leitich Smith and I left Friday from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where the cultural display was "Greatest Story Never Told" on the Texas School for the Deaf's Sesquicentennial.

We had a smooth direct flight on Southwest Airlines while I read The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and Greg read Notes From The Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2006)(author interview).

The Gaylord Opryland itself is essentially three interconnected hotels in one, plus numerous shops, restaurants, a faux river and boat rides, theatrical venues, 24-hour piped-in carols, and convention center with a glass dome--seriously--over the whole thing.

Our Day One headline event was the Boyds Mills/Front Street dinner at the Hermitage in honor of Austin-Nashville author Helen Hemhill (author interview) and her new book Runaround (Front Street, March 2007). I had the pleasure of sitting with Book Page editor Lynn Green.

The event actually was held in a cabin on the grounds rather than the main house, which is a museum. Dinner featured corn pudding and the best fried chicken I've had in decades.

Celebrity sightings included Jane Yolen (author interview), Sara Holbrook, Carolyn Coman, Stephen Roxburgh, and Patty Campbell.

The next morning, we spoke on a panel with Uma Krishnaswami (author interview) on "Three Authors' Journeys Across Borders: Opening Doors for Young Writers To Tell Their Own Stories," which was sponsored by Children's Literature.

Highlights included Uma's passion for themes she hopes to impart to young readers and Greg's observation that, though he's Japanese-German American, if he were to go to Japan or Germany, he'd never be seen as anything but an American.

Brisk signings followed at the HarperCollins and Candlewick booths. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

That evening I continued on to the Candlewick Press YA Author dinner along with our newly minted NBA winner M.T. Anderson (author interview), Cecil Castellucci (author interview), Don Gallo, Paul Janeczko, and Deborah Noyes (author-editor interview).

It was held at Merchants Restaurant in the Pharmacy Room. I enjoyed the salmon and wild rice. Cecil was the other author at my table, and guests left with gift bags filled with books and ARCs of the featured authors (wrapping tissue: gold and light blue). Topics included graphic novels and the band Gael Force, which I can't wait to check out.

Speaking of which, don't-miss reads include: Beige by Cecil Castellucci (2007); The Restless Dead: Ten Original Stories of the Supernatural edited by Deborah Noyes (2007); Worlds Afire by Paul Janeczko (2006); What Are You Afraid Of? Stories About Phobias edited by Donald R. Gallo (2006); The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson (2006); and Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (2007). By the way, thanks to all the Tantalize ARC readers who found me on the floor with hugs and cheers--most appreciated!

After dinner, we stopped by the Delta Lounge to visit with John Green, Cecil Castellucci, David Levithan, Lauren Myracle, M.T. Anderson, Jordan Sonnenblick, and E. Lockhart, among others. Great company, but it had been a long day, so we left before the dancing started.

Today was quieter--sort of an intermission before ALAN. Greg and I had a lovely lunch (Thai shrimp salad and California roll) at the Cascades Restaurant with Elisa Carbone (author interview).

This afternoon, I'm reading Cecil's Beige and Greg is reading True Talents by David Lubar (Tor, 2007).

Tonight is the ALAN party!

Cynsational Notes

Additional celebrity sightings on the convention floor included: Pat Mora, Sara Zarr (author interview), Michael Cart, Judy O'Malley, and Kimberly Willis Holt (author interview).

See lots of authors signing, including me on the floor after my official Harper signing (for those teachers who'd just missed the cut-off time) from Reading, Writing, etc.

See also my ALAN report.

Thanks to my sponsoring publishers--Candlewick and HarperCollins!
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