Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cynsational News & Links

Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Hyperion, December 2007) book trailer. Learn more about the novel from Laurie's site. Read a Cynsations interview with Laurie.

Book Lists for Young Adults on the Web: a resource for librarians, YA readers, and YA writers studying a thread within the body of literature.

Do You Hear It? The YA Voice by Susan Sundwall from WOW! Women on Writing. Here's a sneak peek: "It's so easy to get the young and the adult mixed up. The proper voice can keep it in balance, but there's always a tension present between the two."

Home Free: Seeing Slavery through the Eyes of a Child: an interview with Christopher Paul Curtis by Deborah Hopkinson from BookPage. See a book talk from Scholastic.

"Debbie Michiko Florence is Going Places" from WOW! Women on Writing. Debbi is the author of the upcoming China: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book (Williamson, 2008).

Harry Potter and the Fundamentals of Fantasy by Philip Martin from Absolute Write.

The Horn Book offers a new podcast with author M.T. Anderson.

Hot Off the Press: new releases from CBC Magazine.

Web Connections for September 2007 from Book Links.

Are you in the Massachusetts area? The snowflake ornaments to be auctioned in conjunction with Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure are on exhibit at Child at Heart Gallery at 48 Inn Street in Newburyport through Oct. 22. Open house: Oct. 6.

Ninth Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference

From Anna Olswanger:

The 92nd Street Y Buttenwieser Library and the Jewish Book Council are cosponsoring the Ninth Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference from 9:00 am to 5:00 p.m. Nov. 18 at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

Featured speakers are senior editor Reka Simonsen of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, editor Jennifer Wingertzahn of Clarion Books, senior editor Lindsey Silken of JVibe/JFL Media, sales manager Sarah Aronson of Jewish Lights Publishing, literary agent Kirsten Wolf of Jill Grinberg Literary Management, and associate art director Einav Aviram of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Author and illustrator Neil Waldman, winner of the National Jewish Book Award, will give opening remarks, and the day will include sessions on publishing and writing in Israel, the Sydney Taylor Book Award and Manuscript Competition, and new this year: a panel on "How I Got My First Book Published."

The registration form is available for download (PDF file). Call 212.415.5544 or e-mail library@92Y.org for additional information or to request the form by mail. The final registration deadline is Nov. 12.

If you write or illustrate children's books for the Jewish market, this conference is for you!

Ninth Annual Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference
Nov. 18, 2007, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
$85 before Nov. 1, $100 after Nov. 1
Fee includes kosher breakfast and lunch.

More Personally

Reminder: Are You Predator or Prey? Giveaway Contest: In recognition of October's spookiness, I'm giving away three Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) prize packages--two to people (booksellers, teachers, librarians) who connect books to YA readers and one to an individual reader. The packages each include an autographed copy of Tantalize, a Sanguini's T-shirt, bat and wolf finger puppets, stickers, and additional surprises! In addition, the individual winner will receive one signed Tantalize bookmark, and the bookseller/teacher/librarian winners will receive twenty signed bookmarks. I'll also send autographed bookmark stacks to at least three runners-up in the bookseller/teacher/librarian category. Deadline Oct. 15. See details!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Author Interview: Bill Cochran on The Forever Dog

Bill Cochran on Bill Cochran: "I grew up in Palo Alto, California where I was a pretty lousy student in virtually every subject--in fact, I recall getting a 38 out of 124 on a chemistry test once and never getting good grades on any papers I wrote. I was strangely good at math, so I figured maybe I'd be a math teacher some day. I never really believed I could make a living being 'creative.'

"But as the years went by I figured I had to at least try. After being asked out of the economics department, I backed into a theater major in college (with an emphasis on writing). After college and an appearance on the game show 'Press Your Luck,' I wound up working for talk shows and game shows in Hollywood--I helped run the voting machine on 'Love Connection' for one season, plus had an awkwardly close working relationship with Charles Nelson Reilley.

"I know, this all sounds so glamorous, but I wanted something even more creative, so I went back to school to study advertising copywriting. I am now a Creative Director at a large advertising agency in Dallas. I've been at the same agency now for 14 years and really love the job. It lets me be very silly and still get paid. I've done work for lots of different clients and gotten to work with everyone from Michael Jordan to Roger Clemens to Tim Duncan to a $35,000 robotic talking ham sandwich. Oh, and I had Easter Supper once with Michelle Pfeiffer but that's another story.

"Oh, I also still hold my high school record in the high jump. That doesn't have much to do with writing, but I'm proud of it.

"As far as being a children's writer. This is my first book--I did have a story I wrote, 'Dusk on the Klamath River,' which appeared in my sixth grade year book.

"Oh, I also channel my creativity performing with Dallas's oldest and most popular Improv comedy troupe."

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

The only sprint along the way was writing the manuscript itself. That probably only took a day or two. Everything else: s-l-o-w. I wrote the manuscript 12 years ago, and it took about seven years from the time I wrote it until I had my contract with HarperCollins. It was really just a story I wrote--I didn't know if it was children's book material, magazine article material, or merely something for my mom to read.

Sure there were stumbles, but now that it's out in stores, I just don't really remember what they were.

Congratulations on the release of The Forever Dog, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (HarperCollins, 2007). Could you fill us in on the story?

It's about a young boy, Mike and his dog/best friend, Corky. Warning: Don't get too attached to Corky--he dies before the mid-fold. It's a story about how Mike learns to work through his sadness and embrace Corky's memory. Total tear jerker.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

My golden retriever, Mo, died when I was 26. Mo was only two years old. And I was devastated. I mean--devastated. We had lots of pets growing up: dogs, cats, guinea pigs and even a green parrot named Broccoli, and losing them was always very painful, but nothing compared to losing my first pet. Mo was “My Dog,” the first one that I had raised from a puppy. Did I mention I was devastated?

About a week had passed after Mo died, through all my sorrow, I remember so clearly just having a moment where I simply remembered the good things about her. The love she brought to my world. The stupid things she did that made me laugh. And I knew that nothing could ever take that away from me.

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

I wrote the story a few weeks after Mo died. Then I just kind of sat on the story. One day I showed it to my mom and she burst out crying. Over the next few years I showed it to a few other people, slowly people encouraged me to "try to get it published."

I didn’t know what that entailed, so I did the whole "trying to get published thing"--I went to the book store, bought a book entitled How to Sell Your Children's Book, sent out manuscripts to 15–20 different publishers big and small, and I waited. It wasn't long before I started to get my rejection "notices." I've always thought that it's funny that many of them aren't even full letters. They're quarter page things that are easier to fit in your SASE. Hilarious.

I had really hoped someone would've just told me it's good or not good enough, but with those form letters I really just felt like no one was even reading it.

Anyway, after all those rejections I sort of sat on it again for a year or two. Then one day I was shooting a TV commercial (for my real, paying job) and I overheard the wardrobe assistant talking to a prop assistant about children's publishing. I asked if they "knew" someone in publishing. Turns out she did. Her sister had a friend who was an editor.

After a few e-mails I sent my manuscript to this editor--and badda boom, badda bing--after nine months I learned she had lost my manuscript! Ha! So I sent it again. Then nine months later, she e-mailed me saying she’d read it and thought it could sell.

I had to re-read that e-mail several times to understand what it really said.

Three weeks later I had a two-book contact. Insane.

Of course, then things slowed down considerably. That was five years ago.

Over the next few years there was some trouble procuring the right illustrator, but finally Dan came on board and everything couldn't look better. Plus, my release date got bumped a few times, but heck, it's out now, so life couldn't be better. What's 12 years in the grand scheme of things?

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

The hardest part was actually killing off my main character--the dog Corky--in the book. It was really painful writing that portion of the story. But I'll never forget writing the final words of the book and having a huge feeling of "Wow, this really came together nicely. I kind of gave myself goosebumps. And that doesn't happen when I write that often."

The title of the manuscript was The Forever Plan and almost immediately my editor told me, “Well, we’re gonna have to change that title.” That took me by surprise a little, the title meant a lot to me--it was sort of the whole original concept of the story and I hated to lose it. But now, lots of people come and tell me--"I love the title," so I generally take full credit.

What did Dan Andreasen's illustrations bring to your text?

It was funny. I was really nervous about seeing what he would do. I had lived with the manuscript for so long "un-illustrated" that I didn't know how I would react. However, I was almost brought to tears when I saw them. I wrote Corky to be an "everydog," a mutt that anyone could associate with, but the crazy thing is, Corky looks a lot like Mo did when she was a puppy--right down to the red dog collar. And Dan and I have never spoken--nor did he ever see picture of Mo.

There's also this one illustration at the back of the book, it's just a picture of a dog collar and a ball. Ooph. That one got me the first time I saw it.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

First thing I would tell myself is: "You can do it." I think more than anything that's what I would want to hear. I know all creative people go through self-doubt, but I struggled so much in school I had huge confidence issues. I would also tell my "back-then" self to ask girls questions like "What do you want to do?" and not just nervously talk about myself all the time. Okay, that doesn't have anything to do with writing, but it would've helped me with the girls.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I love hanging out and acting silly with friends--I throw very bizarre parties sometimes. I've had parties with a spelling bee, a paper airplane contest, and rock-scissors-paper tournaments. I also love working out as much as possible so that I can eat as much as possible.

That being said, I can seriously be a total couch potato and I'm not ashamed to say it. I watch tons of sports, but I can also get sucked into a day of VH1 without even realizing it. I'm also a huge fan of track and field, though I'm long retired from that. Oh, and I'm addicted to this backgammon game on my computer.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

I'm trying to make it just a part of my life. It's incredibly rewarding to see people reading your book. It's incredible to look out during a reading and see four of five people with tears in their eyes as I read my story. It's incredible to get e-mails from people I don't know telling me how much my book helped them. I'm still so new to the whole thing that I just take it one day, one event, one challenge at a time. It's too easy to look back and thing of all the mistakes I've made. I do love blogging though. I'm pretty sure it's just friends and family who visit it regularly, but I have a great time doing it, and if nothing else it's really interesting to go back and see what I felt like before my book came out and really relive the whole experience.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I'm really excited to say I've sold a second manuscript. It's a story about a boy whose parents get divorced. Yes, another semi-autobiographical tear jerker. It's just one of those things, I sent HaperCollins a fair amount of manuscripts which were all light hearted and fun.

Ultimately they said, we really like how you handled grief. Can you do it again? Okay, well, I was devastated when my parents got divorced--so the story kind of became "what I would really want to hear when I was seven." It took a whole lot of false starts and bad finishes to get through the sugary-sweet saccharine manuscripts I didn't want to write out of my system. But in the end, I'm really proud of the story, because actually, it's pretty funny. It's with the illustrator now.

Currently I'm working on writing a longer manuscript--I don't know where it would fit in--mid grade, chapter book? I don't know, but I'm really just trying to be authentic and write from the heart. And you know what? If it sells, great. If not, that's okay. I'm really proud of this book because it's totally "me."

I also wrote a screenplay that I love, but just have been waiting for the right people to share it with. I figured if I can sell a book by waiting for the right people to come along, why not a screenplay?

Oh, and if you're ever in Dallas come see my show at Ad Libs!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Are You Predator or Prey?

In recognition of October's spookiness, I'm giving away three Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) prize packages--two to people (booksellers, teachers, librarians) who connect books to YA readers and one to an individual reader.

The packages each include an autographed copy of Tantalize, a Sanguini's T-shirt, bat and wolf finger puppets, stickers, and additional surprises!

In addition, the individual winner will receive one signed Tantalize bookmark, and the bookseller/teacher/librarian winners will receive twenty signed bookmarks. I'll also send autographed bookmark stacks to at least three runners-up in the bookseller/teacher/librarian category.

To enter, leave a comment at the mirror to this post on my LJ or my MySpace page or my JacketFlap or email me, answering the following question: are you predator or prey? (bonus points for saying why; I reserve the right to share your answers).

Be sure to include a link to your own page, blog, or LJ that includes an email address or clear link to contact information or include your email addy in your post, so that I can get in touch with you! If you are a teacher/librarian/bookseller, please indicate that, too. The deadline is Monday, Oct. 15! I'll send off winner packages right away.

Note: any and all efforts to spread the word about this giveaway will be most appreciated!

More News & Links

Tantalize fan blog in Spanish from Noemi.

Library Media Connection says of Tantalize: "Darkly humorous... Takes the classic vampire mythology up a notch."

Authors, readers unite at National Book Festival: Texas represented at event that is modeled after Texas festival by Bob Dart of the Washington Bureau of the Austin American-Statesman. Note: incorporates an interview with me.

Cyn On The Road--October Public Events

2007 Kansas Book Festival will be held from Oct. 5 to Oct. 6 at Koch Arena on the campus of Wichita State University. The festival is a joint presentation of the Governor's Cultural Affairs Council, the State Library of Kansas, the Kansas Center for the Book, the Kansas Historical Society, Wichita Public Library, Kansas Arts Commission, and the Kansas Humanities Council. The 2007 Festival will benefit the State Library's Statewide Summer Reading Program, which reaches 80,000 children through public libraries in 400 Kansas communities every year.

Featured authors: Polly Basore, All Is Bright; Alice Bertels, John Steuart Curry: The Road Home; George Brandsberg, AFOOT: A Tale of the Great Dakota Turkey Drive; Christie Breault, Logan West, Printer's Devil; Michael Buckley, "The Sisters Grimm" series; Beverley Olson Buller, The Story of William Allen White; Ally Carter, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy; J. B. Cheaney, The Middle of Somewhere; Shane Evans, When Gorilla Goes Walking; Randi Hacker, Life As I Knew It; L. D. Harkrader, Airball: My Life in Briefs; Cheryl Harness, The Remarkable Rough-Riding Life of Theodore Roosevelt and Just for You to Know; Kimberly Willis Holt, Piper Reed: Navy Brat; Richard W. Jennings, Ferret Island; Stephen T. Johnson, Alphabet City, My Little Yellow Taxi, and Tour America; Jane Kurtz, What Columbus Found (It Was Orange, It Was Round); Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tantalize and Santa Knows; Greg Leitich Smith, Ninjas, Pirhanas, & Galileo and Santa Knows; Justin Matott, Go Ask Mom: Stories From the Upper Bunk; Brandon Mull, The Candy Shop War and the "Fablehaven" series; Susanna Pitzer, Not Afraid of Dogs; Tim Raglin, The Curse of Catunkhamun; Dian Curtis Regan, Princess Nevermore and Cam's Quest; Lois Ruby, Shanghai Shadows; Brad Sneed, The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians; Roderick Townley, The Red Thread; Richard Uhlig, Last Dance at the Frosty Queen.

The Haggard Library/Plano (Texas) Public Library (2501 Coit Road) will host Cynthia Leitich Smith at "Prom with Bite" from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 13. Grades 6 to 12. Come dressed in your best vampire finery! I will.

Star Lit, a children's literary festival, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Plano (TX). The event benefits the Dallas Bethlehem Center. Featured authors and illustrators include: Will Hillenbrand; Dee Scallan and Daniel Myers; Laura Numeroff; Bryan Collier; Kim Brown; Kimberly Willis Holt; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Greg Leitich Smith; and Tracy Dockray.

On the private events front, I also will be speaking Oct. 19 at a meeting of District Three of the Texas Library Association and Oct. 25 to a school group at BookPeople.

On the online events front, I'm honored to be featured as one of 31 Flavorite Authors by the Readergirlz on Oct. 29!

Future events include the 25th Annual Children's Book Festival and 25th Annual Young Adult Book Conference at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, on Nov. 3, the Texas Book Festival in Austin on Nov. 4, and the Norman Public Library in Norman, Oklahoma, on Nov. 11.

Monday, October 01, 2007

2007 National Book Festival: Impressions and Memories

The 2007 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush, was held Sept. 29 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I had the honor of speaking about my new YA Gothic fantasy, Tantalize.

Featured authors and titles also included: Jennifer L. Holm; María Celeste Arrarás, The Magic Cane; Ashley Bryan/Jan Spivey Gilchrist, My America; Carmen Agra Deedy, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale; Mercer Mayer, The Bravest Knight and There’s a Nightmare in My Closet; Megan McDonald, Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday; Judy Schachner, Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones; Rosemary Wells, Red Moon at Sharpsburg and Max’s ABCs; David Wiesner, Flotsam; Jacqueline Wilson, Candyfloss; M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1; Holly Black, Ironside; E.L. Konigsburg, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World; Gail Carson Levine, Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand; Patricia MacLachlan, Edward’s Eyes; Patricia McCormick, Sold; Shelia P. Moses, The Baptism; Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese.

The event opened with the National Book Festival Gala at the Library of Congress on Sept. 28. Fellow NBF author M.T. "Tobin" Anderson was kind enough to accompany me (authors were not invited to bring guests). I wore a black shell and skirt with a shimmery silver shoulder wrap and black dress cowboy boots.

Meanwhile, my husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, attended the "Alternate Event," which was more casual, at United States Botanic Garden.

A reception in the great hall of the Library of Congress preceded opening ceremonies at Coolidge Auditorium. Speakers included benefactor Laysha Ward, vice president, community relations and Target foundation, followed by James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, and Laura Bush (see remarks and more), who partnered with the Library of Congress to launch the first National Book Festival in 2001. Speakers also included Sheila P. Moses, author of The Baptism (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

It was a big, bustling crowd, but sightings included Gene Luen Yang, Jennifer L. Holm, Holly Black, Professors Junko Yokota and William Teale, and ALA president Loriene Roy.

Assigned seating placed me at a table hosted by Stephen L. Johnson, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He was an upbeat, gracious host and introduced me to Henry Merritt "Hank" Paulson Jr., the Treasury Secretary, and Mary A. Peters, the Secretary of Transportation. The tables were decorated with floral centerpieces featuring pale blush roses with blue begonias and pale pink lilies.

National Book Festival Gala Menu

***

Gravlax with fall salad

Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2005

***

Fillet of Beef with Mustard-Cognac Reduction

haricots verts and turned carrots

double cream celery root and Yukon gold potato puree

Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

***

Chocolate Corinthian Glace

demitasse cafe and tea

Upon exiting, we received a keepsake bookmark and National Book Festival bookplates.

The following morning, I enjoyed breakfast at the White House with Holly Black (see photo alongside), Jennifer L. Holm, and M.T. Anderson (see photo below) as well as our respective and charming escorts.

A written menu wasn't provided, but essentially, we were served a high-end breakfast buffet (see below). I selected a salmon roll, cheese-and-tomato roll, and mini croissant with orange juice.

Our centerpiece was another floral arrangement, this one featuring white, gold, and peach roses with green berries and hydrangea in a small silver vase.

I wore matching black slacks and a shell with a brown jacket and brown dress cowboy boots.


Afterward, we took a trolley bus to the National Mall. The going was rather slow due to various intersecting streets having been blocked off for a marathon.

A cool morning melted into a warm, dusty afternoon, though festival authors could take refuge and refuel in a private tent with its own restrooms and snacks (for lunch, I had a turkey wrap in a spinach tortilla). My author escort was Dr. Frederick J. Augustyn, Jr., of the Library of Congress.

Highlights included sightings/chats with a few alumni of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, including one of my own former advisees, Glenda Carlile of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, author Michelle Meadows, Cathi Dunn MacRae (of VOYA fame), Greg's former Little Brown editor Amy (Hsu) Lin, and a number of personal pals, whose support meant a great deal.

Thank you to Mrs. Bush, Dr. Billington, the Library of Congress, Candlewick Press, Dr. Augustyn, Greg Leitich Smith, and all those who turned out to celebrate reading!

Cynsational Notes

See Greg's three-part report (with additional photos and information): I, II, III.

Greg and I enjoyed visiting DC for a couple of days prior to the festival. See my informal report at Spookycyn.

2007 marked my second time at the National Book Festival. I presented Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) at the 2002 National Book Festival.
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