Friday, November 28, 2008

Cynsational News, Giveaways & San Antonio Report

Enter to win one of two autographed copies of Shift by Jennifer Bradbury (Atheneum, 2008). From the promotional copy: "When Chris Collins and Winston Coggans take off on a post-graduation cross-country bike trek, Chris's hopes are high. He's looking forward to seeing the country, dodging a dull summer at a minimum wage job, and having one final adventure with his oldest friend. The journey from Hurricane, West Virginia to the coast of Washington state delivers all those things...and more.

"So much more that when Chris returns home without Win at the end of the summer, he's certain their 10 year friendship is all but over. But when an FBI agent begins asking questions—and raising suspicions about Chris—he learns that saying goodbye to a friend like Win is never as simple as riding away. Shift offers an adventure story and a missing persons tale spinning around a single question: What happens when you outgrow your best friend?"

Read a Cynsations inteview with Jennifer.

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 9! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 9! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win. Please also type "Shift" in the subject line. One copy will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of YA literature (please indicate in entry); the other will go to any Cynsational reader.

Enter to win a copy of Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, edited by Rick Riordan with Leah Wilson (BenBella, 2008)(PDF excerpt)! Read a Cynsations interview with Rick. To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 2! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 2! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win. Please also type "Demigods and Monsters" in the subject line.

The winner of an autographed copy of Santa Knows by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (Dutton, 2006) was Heather in Florida!
The runner-up winners of the CD audio edition produced by Scholastic Book Club were Rebekah in Oklahoma and Amy in Texas. Note: no tape entries; wow, does nobody use tape players anymore?

More News

The Writer's Studio...with Lisa Yee from The Friday Book Report: Tony Abbott's Blog. Peek: "There are, wait, let me count—one, two, three, four—there are four mugs stocked with pens. (I never use pencils.)"

Letter from Vicki Cobb -- On Multimedia from Marc Aronson of Nonfiction Matters at School Library Journal. Peek: "It's an opportunity for self-expression, combining language arts, performing arts and the potential for stardom while (and here’s my not-so-hidden agenda) learning something about science."

Writing for Teens and Middle Grades with YA Author Gaby Triana from Jan. 5 to– March 2. "Intense, weekly writing with direct feedback from the author of teen novels, Backstage Pass, Cubanita, The Temptress Four, and Riding the Universe (HarperCollins)[see book information]. Focus on creativity, fresh expression (voice), characterization, and publishing basics in the book market. Each week, you will complete a writing assignment to be critiqued and returned to you for review and revision with thorough, personalized comments and line-editing. By the end of the course, you will have revised your strongest piece which will be evaluated based on readiness for submission to publishers. This is not a beginner’s English course. This is a hands-on workshop for anyone serious about developing already good writing skills, so a basic handle on grammar and spelling is strongly recommended! 8-week course - $375. Ages 15 and up. No refunds. For more information and/or registration form, contact Gaby.

Professional Writers: Traits and Practices from Michael Sampson and Cynthia Leung. "A survey about how writers practice their craft." "Throughout the U.S. writing is being “taught” in ways that violate the process of how many of us write, or so we think. This research will document what writers do as they create their stories. Perhaps our findings can influence how the craft of writing is taught? Please share with us in the hope that this will happen. You may choose to keep your responses confidential, if you wish."

My Role as a YA Author by Varian Johnson from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "...the anonymous poster calls on authors to 'use their gift to steer some attitudes in the right direction.' But in the case of abortion, what is the right direction? As an author, is it my right to dictate what someone should or shouldn't feel on the matter, especially on an issue that continues to divide our country?" See also Falling Leaves Retreat Editors Respond by Nancy Castaldo, who asks the following editors to illuminate their paths to their careers: Caroline Abbey (Bloomsbury); Elizabeth Law (Egmont); Alexandra Penfold (Paula Wiseman); Sarah Shumway (Harper); and Jennifer Yoon (Candlewick).

19th Annual Children's Illustration Show from R. Michelson Galleries. See also the Exhibit Page!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has temporarily halted acquisitions, according to Publishers Weekly. However, Tracy Marchini of Curtis Brown reports: "I've heard from a trusted source that the HMH halt on acquisitions applies only to adult titles at this point."

Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard (Candlewick Press, 2008): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "...terrifically fun illustrations and sparse 'caveboy' style prose."

EarlyWord: The Publisher | Librarian Connection from Nora Rawlinson, co-founder and editor and Fred Ciporen, co-founder and publisher. Source: Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys.

Making Diamonds by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "Sometimes people want to know, do I always have to have a big conflict in my story? What if they're no real problem? Does every story have to be formulaic?"

More Personally

Check out my lovely thank you gift from Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI. See Research To Write by Samantha Clark at Day by Day Writer a report on the Brazos Valley (Texas) SCBWI conference on Nov. 15, which includes some of my thoughts on setting. See also parts one and three of her report on the conference. Note: part three offers insights into author Kathi Appelt and agent Emily van Beek's relationship and the writing of The Underneath (Atheneum). Read Cynsations interviews with Kathi and Emily.

Last Thursday, Greg and I packed up again (sorry, Mercury!) to go to San Antonio for the Express-News Children's Book and Author Celebration and the NCTE/ALAN conference. (I can't begin to list all of the amazing folks we saw, so I'll just do my best to highlight a few).

According to the Express-News, the "fifth annual literary event features children's book authors and illustrators talking about their careers and latest books. Speakers included: M. T. Anderson (above); Kathi Appelt (above); Pam Muñoz Ryan; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Carmen Tafolla, and artists C. S. Jennings and Terry Ybañez." The event benefited the San Antonio Library Foundation's Born to Read initiative. Special thanks to Steve Bennett of the Express-News, to Deb and Robert Ferguson for the lovely reception, and to my author escort, Nancy Strehlow!

(Kathi, thank you again for my faerie wand! Tobin, I hope your cold is better!).

Greg and I stayed Friday night at the historic Fairmount (pictured) and Saturday through Monday night at The Westin, both of which are located on the River Walk. The most awesome thing about the Fairmount is that it has a hotel dog concierge, who greeted us at the door!''

On Saturday, Candlewick hosted a YA Fiesta with Marc Aronson, Patty Campbell, Rita Williams-Garcia, P. J. Haarsma, and Tobin Anderson at Charles Court! I had the privilege of sitting with CP editors Sarah Ketchersid and Hilary Van Dusen as well as Jim Blasingame of Arizona State (above), Peter Goggin, also of Arizona State, Marge Ford (AKA marvelous moderator) of Youngstown State, and Angela Beumer Johnson of Wright State.

At ALAN, I spoke with Melissa Marr and Rick Riordan on urban fantasy (again, moderated by Marge), and Greg spoke with Cory Doctorow and David Yoo on boys reading (moderated by Bonnie Kunzel, pictured above). Both panels went really well! It was my first time to meet Melissa, whose work I adore. Both she and Rick were gracious and inspiring.

Here's Greg (above) with Elaine Scott (author interview).

Say hello to John Green (author interview)(above).

David Levithan (author interview) and Coe Booth (above).

Walter "The Giant" Mayes (author interview)(above).

Neal Shusterman (above).

Barry Lyga (author interview)(above).

"New Voices in Young Adult Literature" Donna Freitas, Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, and Suzanne Crowley (author interview)(above).

Vermont College of Fine Arts alumni were at the heart of the action. Here's Debbie Gonzales with Greg (above).

Cindy Faughnan and Vanessa Ziff (above).

Helen Hemphill (author interview)(above). Check out "Considering Gender...," Helen's latest article at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "'s a list of things to consider before you being writing across gender..." See also Two Writers Writing Across Gender with Varian Johnson and April Lurie.

Speaking of VCFA, here's a mid-report photo celebration of my faculty colleague, Rita Williams-Garcia (author interview) and friends.

First, we have Rita with Marc Aronson (author interview) and Patty Campbell (above). The trio spoke on a panel about Marc and Patty's new book, War is...: Soldiers, Survivors, and Storytellers Talk About War (Candlewick, 2008). Rita is a contributor. Favorite moment: Rita referring to herself as the "love child" of "Mother Peace" AKA Patty and "Father War" AKA Marc.

Next up we have Rita with author Tanya Lee Stone (author interview)(above). Tanya spoke on a breakout panel on Positive Depictions of Sex in Young Adult Literature with David Levithan (author interview), Laura Ruby (author interview), and Lara M. Zeises (author interview).

And finally, here's Rita on the River Walk (above). Note: I hadn't seen Rita in person for a whole year--can you tell I missed her?

Greg's editor, Alvina Ling of Little, Brown (above). (Thanks for the amazing brunch at La Mansión del Rio, Alvina!).

Highlights of the ALAN conference included Laurie Halse Anderson's speech. See Speak Up About Speak!

Don't miss NCTE/ALAN photo reports from authors Laurie Halse Anderson, Mary E. Pearson, and Greg (who details more of our goings-on). See also photo reports from Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

Huge thanks to: Candlewick Press and Little, Brown; David Gill, Marge Ford, and the ALAN officers, board and conference planners; and everyone who took part in a great event! Thanks also to everyone who stopped by my signing at the Candlewick booth--I'm honored!


rgz Blog-O-Hunt for Native American Heritage Month: a reminder from HipWriterMama. Deadline Nov. 30. Peek: "The first 25 correct entries will win rgz buttons and bookmarks!"

Fifth Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts will be March 27 to March 29, 2009. Featuring: author Kathi Appelt; author Elise Broach; and editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic. Includes: lectures; organized workshops; writing exercises; one-on-one critiques with one of the guest authors; one-on-one critique with guest editor (extra fee); open mike; discussions; room and board. Cost: $450. Registration begins Dec. 1. For more information, contact Sarah Aronson.

Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate's painting "Duke Ellington," and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. Note: it's especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.

Hurricane Ike Recovery Fund for Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas. Peek: "The Children's Department, Technical Services, Circulation Department and Operations were located on the first Floor and all are gone. [emphasis added]" See more information. Note: Please consider yourself encouraged to pass on this blurb and link. The media has moved on to other stories, but efforts to deal with the aftermath are ongoing.

Hurricane Ike Library Relief: "Following the destructive visit of Hurricane Ike, Blue Willow Bookshop [in Houston] is initiating a nationwide campaign to rebuild the library collections of Anahuac High School, Freeport Intermediate School and, closer to home, the Alief Hastings 9th Grade Center. These schools lost more than 75% of their collections. Our goal is to have 1,000 books to deliver to these libraries by Dec. 1."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10th Anniversary Feature: Ellen Booraem

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of, I asked some
first-time authors the following question:

As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you've learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here's the latest reply, this one from author Ellen Booraem:

My time as a published debut author has just started as I write this. But I set out on this road five years ago, and the experience has been rife with revelations.

Being a member of the Class of 2k8 has been a crash course in publishing.

As readers of Cynsations no doubt recall, this is an on-line marketing collaborative for debut authors of middle grade and young adult novels published in 2008. There are 27 of us, with diverse backgrounds and experiences that we share daily on a Yahoo email loop and a blog.

My savvier 2k8 classmates have opened my eyes to the variety, richness, and power of the Internet. I never thought I'd have a blog or a Web site, or would be so enthusiastic about both. I had no idea that resources like Cynsations even existed!

Overall, though, the most far-reaching lesson came early, years before the Class of 2k8 was a glimmer in cyberspace.

Although I've written for a living for thirty years—mostly as a reporter and editor for rural weeklies--I got serious about novel-writing fairly late in my career.

I'd tried twice before to quit my job and write fiction, thinking I could freelance to pay the bills. Each time I got scared or bored or both, and allowed the freelancing to take over.

This third time, starting in November 2003, I was determined that I would keep my butt on that chair until I wrote a decent novel. About a month in, though, the inevitable morning came when I sat down, looked at the screen, and went blank. The panic rose like flood waters.

Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go.

This time, though, I pushed down the panic, opened a new document, and just started typing whatever came out of my brain about my main character, regardless of whether it made sense. A half-hour later, I was back at work on the manuscript, head clear and jitters banished.

Later, I modified the technique by writing "journals" in the voices of various characters--very illuminating for the story, and a healthy break from the daily slog.

I've written another novel, which I'm now revising for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and I'm still managing to trick my brain into working.

For years as a reporter, I warned sources to expect a phone call with last-minute questions when I was writing whatever story involved them.

"My brain engages only when my fingers start typing," I'd tell them.

This turns out to be just as true for fiction-writing--if I get the fingers moving on a keyboard, even if they're typing gibberish, eventually the brain sputters and coughs, smoke puffs out of the stack, and I start to chug along, the little novelist that could.
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