Saturday, February 28, 2009

Austin's Delacorte Dames and Dude

Not for teenagers only: Austin's Delacorte Dames and Dude explain why writing young adult novels is a very grown-up endeavor by Jeff Salamon from The American-Statesman Staff. Peek: "Having a group of friends who are going through the same thing as you—trying to reach the same audience, dealing with the same copy editors, working with the same marketing department—is a rare blessing." See more from Jeff about the DDDs latest novels.

Learn more about Shana Burg, Varian Johnson, April Lurie, Margo Rabb, and Jennifer Ziegler.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win an advanced reader copy of City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (McElderry Books, March 24, 2009). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "City of Glass" in the subject line. Note: Facebook and MySpace readers can message me instead, but don't send mailing information. I'll touch base if you win. Deadline: March 2! All Cynsational readers are eligible! Read a Cynsations interview with Cassandra Clare.

Author Interview and Book Giveaway with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Beth Revis at writing it out. Peek: "My original concept was elf-vampire, not angel-vampire; that came at the suggestion of my editor, but I loved it and started over again." Note: Beth is giving away a copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) or Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). Deadline: Feb. 28. See details.

See more giveaways, including Eternal giveaways, below!

More News

Through The Wardrobe: a new blog by author Janet Fox and "a window into one writer's world, from thoughts about writing technique to musings about my experiences."

Win-It Wednesday: No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia + The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson from Melissa Walker at MySpace. Peek: "both of these books are fantastic in different ways. You'll love the spirit of Akilah in No Laughter Here (HarperCollins/Amistad, 2004)(author interview) as she tries to figure out why her best friend Victoria has changed after coming home from a summer visit to Nigeria. And in The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Holt, 2008)(author interview), the suspense of finding out Jenna's true history kept me up late into the night." Comment before March 11ish (she said "about two weeks").

Author Jackson Pearce offers a videolog on giving cats baths and giving up on your novel (below). Note: I watch this and think: She has a gray cat; I have gray cats. I like people with gray cats. I want to learn more about her.

We Ask An Editor: Emily Schultz, Disney-Hyperion by Megan Frazer from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I often reread my letters and think, "Thank God she didn't agree with me on that one." I write really long editorial letters with plenty of suggestions, but my real aim is to show authors potential in their stories they might not have realized. Sometimes they're good ideas in themselves. But usually it's the back-and-forth that propels the evolution of a story."

SCBWI NY Winter Conference Report by Meredith Davis from Austin SCBWI. Peek: "
Sure, I'd love to make that connection with the perfect agent or editor. But perhaps that isn't going to happen in the mad dash that inevitably occurs at the end of a presentation. Maybe that connection only happens when I've reminded myself to write from my heart, and continue to produce new and different work that grows and changes just as my characters need to."

Sympathetic vs. Unsympathetic Characters from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "And there are some actions that are just too far beyond the pale for even the most likable of characters, including using racial slurs and/or other powerful cultural taboos. (Oddly this does not seem to include killing people and eating their flesh. Books are weird that way.)" Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Congratulations to Tanya Lee Stone on the release of Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream (Candlewick, 2009). From the promotional copy: "Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 2009. What does it take to be an astronaut? Excellence at flying, courage, intelligence, resistance to stress, top physical shape--any checklist would include these. But when America created NASA in 1958, there was another unspoken rule: you had to be a man. Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved that they were not only as tough as the toughest man but also brave enough to challenge the government. They were blocked by prejudice, jealousy, and the scrawled note of one of the most powerful men in Washington. But even though the Mercury 13 women did not make it into space, they did not lose, for their example empowered young women to take their place in the sky, piloting jets and commanding space capsules. Almost Astronauts is the story of thirteen true pioneers of the space age. They had the right stuff. They defied the prejudices of the time. And they blazed a trail for generations of women to follow."

Agent Interview: Michelle Humphrey from Sterling Lord from Denise Jaden. Peek: "I'm looking for YA (contemporary, historical, romance, quirky – not really genre fantasy, but I'm open to fantasy elements)--anything with a distinct voice. I am especially fond of subversive heroines--characters who break the rules and aren't afraid to set themselves apart from the crowd."

Namastechnology: Asana: Twitter: "This new monthly column aims to bring bookselling and technology into greater balance with one another and is written by Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD bookstore in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more of her thoughts on books and bookselling at" Another peek: "You'll feel almost instantly how good Twitter is for you. There are dozens upon dozens of booksellers, sales reps, publishers, reviewers and authors on Twitter. You know that sort of glow-y buzz you get after a bookseller convention, when you feel like your mind is expanding and you've met some cool new people and you have the greatest job in the world? That's what Twitter can be like." Source: Laurie Halse Anderson.

An Interview with Kathi Appelt from Authors Unleashed. Peek: "Perseverance is the key. I began to seriously write for publication when my boys were very young, so I learned to write in five minute snatches of time. I didn't wait to find those huge chunks of time that everyone is always searching for. In those early days, that would have been impossible. So, whenever I had five minutes, I grabbed my pencil and wrote. I still do that to a great extent."

Getting by With a Little Help from Your Friends from Buried in the Slush Pile. Peek: "I would like to encourage everyone to get out and mingle with your fellow authors. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit--just you and your keyboard or pad of paper. Interactions like these help you maintain perspective." Note: a peek into the Austin youth writing/editing/book-selling scene.

More Story, Less You from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "I know you'll find all over the Internet that writing qualifications are important. They definitely are if you're writing nonfiction. But for novels: not so much. Honestly." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Bloody Bookaholics: "My duty is to help you not to waste your time and find the best match for you, whether its fiction or supernatural, the one book for everyone is out there, you just gotta look."

Win Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson from In Bed with Books. Deadline: Feb. 28.

Sparrow Girls and Too Many Beetles: Ed Spicer's Teen Book Reviews highlights Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (Hyperion, 2009) and One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman (Candlewick, 2009). Peek: "The common bond between both of these excellent books is the risks taken by Ming-Li and Darwin. Both risk the wrath of family and society by listening more to that inner voice that cares only for truth, than to caving in to the pressures exerted by family and society expectations."

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction from Locus Magazine. Peek: "The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn't help my writing." Source: Laurie Halse Anderson.

What About the Catholics?
from Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy. Peek: "On the one hand, as a child I assumed every character in a book was like me until I was told differently. Unless there was evidence to the contrary, the characters were Catholic like me. Of course, that's not true. I think some authors perhaps do that deliberately (not mentioning religion at all). So what about the Catholics?"

Enter the So You Think You Can "Dead Girl" Dance Contest! 1st place: autographed copies of Dead Girl Walking (Flux, 2008) and Dead Girl Dancing (Flux, 2009), your name on the dedication page of a future Linda Joy Singleton book, your video link featured on the author's blogs; 2nd place: a book of choice by Linda Joy Singleton. Learn more. Read a Cynsations interview with Linda Joy.

Evelyn Coleman: an interview by Carla Sarratt in conjunction with 28 Days Later 2009: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "...even with years of accounting experience, I still am not able to read the royalty statements of at least half of my publishers." See also an interview with "vanguard" author Jacqueline Woodson. Peek: "
I think if I didn't have a village — here in Brooklyn... I have so many close friends, my children have so many 'aunties'and 'cousins'. There is always someone saying 'You can do this, Jackie' or 'You rock!' or just saying 'come over, we're cooking for y'all tonight.' And that's the kind of stuff that makes the everyday so much easier."

In These Harsh Economic Times from The Rejector. Peek: "Despite the corporate doom-and-gloom, publishing is actually a fairly stable industry in that people always want/need books. It's either for school or escapism, and it's rather cheap escapism, as most mass market paperbacks are now cheaper than a movie ticket and the book will last you longer."

Q & A with Lisa Yee by Lynda Brill Comerford from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I didn't really think about Maybelline's race very much. Her feelings and emotions transcend race. But, in the book, there is an Asian character, Ted. Inserting him was a conscious choice. Through him, I wanted to explore what would happen if you were raised one race and found out that your DNA showed you to be a different race." Source: Confessions of a Bibliovore.

Definitions for the Perplexed: Editorial Anonymous offers insights into the mysteries of such publishing issues as cast-off, galleys, ARCs, proofs, PPB, ISBNs. Peek: "So galleys are not like buckshot loaded into a shotgun, meant to be fired in the general direction of marketing opportunities. They are sent to the people who will very likely make a difference in the sales numbers. Try to remember this before you suggest that your publisher send you a couple hundred to pass out to your friends."

Congratulations to J. E. MacLeod on the release of Waiting to Score (WestSide, 2009)! From the promotional copy: "Quirky 15-year-old Zack Chase is a smart, talented hockey player who knows how to score on the ice. Hockey's in his blood. Trouble is he's not so sure he wants to follow his late father's footsteps to become a professional hockey player. But, Zack's Mom is determined he'll make it to the pros, no matter what. When Zack and his Mom move to a new town, incidents on ice and off force Zack to dig deep to find out who he really is--and what he really wants. Is it Jane, the hockey hating Goth girl he's wildly intrigued with? Or an easier, sure thing? Soon, Zack faces sore losers, drinking problems, and his own screw-ups with girls. Zack discovers the hard way that sometimes secrets have tragic and far-reaching consequences. He ultimately learns that there are some things that can never be undone, no matter how much he may want it."

A Boot Camp for Writers, Featuring Editors and Authors from Blooming Tree Press will be held by Austin SCBWI from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 25 at the Residency Center in Terravista, located off I-35 in Round Rock, Texas (directions will be sent with confirmation). Event will include: professional critiques; Continental breakfast and lunch; networking opportunities; general sessions; break-out sessions. Note: Although Blooming Tree Press does not normally accept unagented submissions, Boot Camp Participants will be invited to submit work after this event. See additional information and registration packet. Note: featured editors will include Buried in the Slush Pile. Read a Cynsations interview with Blooming Tree editor Miriam Hees.

Enter to Win an ARC of The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan from Karen Mahoney. Note: leave a comment explaining why you want to win the book." Deadline: March 2.

Check out this TV interview (below) with YA authors Mari Mancusi and Melissa Walker; see also Cover Stories: Fashion Week Interview with Molly (aka Violet!) from Melissa. Peek: "Meet Molly H. She's the model on the cover of all three Violet books."

Marvelous Marketer - Elizabeth Dulemba (Illustrator/Author) from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "It's the old 'see it seven times' rule of advertising. People generally don't notice an ad until they've seen it at least seven times. In other words, the more you and your name are out there, the more likely your work will stick in people's minds."

Q & A with K.L. Going by Sue Corbett from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I was still working at Curtis Brown and seeing a lot of manuscripts that had to do with the fear that event had caused. I had been a fearful child but I was looking for a book that would deal with fear in a more general sense." Read a Cynsations interview with K. L.

Rachel Cohn: visit her new author blog! Peek: "I just finished a book called Very LeFreak that will come out in early 2010. It's about a nineteen-year-old girl, nicknamed Very LeFreak, who is way out of control with online and iPhone addiction, and what happens when she has to go cold turkey from her electronic life." Note: she's interested in suggestions as to what to blog about.

Overheard at the NJ-SCBWI Mentoring Workshop from Tara Lazar at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). Peek: "We may see a return to house authors. Authors and publishers will enter a partnership. They'll help nurture one another and careers will have a steady progression. If you find a house that loves you, they will love you long time!" Note: many interesting tidbits.

Winnie's War by Jenny Moss (Walker, 2009): a recommendation from Greg Leitich Smith at GregLS Blog. Peek: "It's the autumn of 1918; the war is almost over, but the town of Coward Creek, Texas; is bracing itself for the Spanish flu that has already killed thousands across the country and in nearby Houston." Note: a well-crafted, emotionally resonant historical novel. Recommended to writers for study as a model.

Swag Bag Contest from Brooke Taylor. Peek: "This past weekend my local RWA group hosted a teen reader panel and I put together some awesome swag bags with the help of several very cool authors and I have 1 bag left! The bag has a signed copy of Undone plus book swag (stickers/magnets/bookmarks) from Alyson Noel, Keri Mikulski, Lisa Schroeder, and Tina Ferraro. Plus, As a thank you to these super ladies--I'll throw in one book of your choice by any of these authors..." Deadline: March 1. See details.

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia (Harper Teen, 2009): a recommendation from Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "...a compelling and sometimes disturbing novel of choices and randomness..." Read a Cynsations interview with Rita.

Book Revenue Breakdown from Nathan Bransford -- Literary Agent. Peek: "....note that this (thankfully) doesn't include rights the agent/author might have reserved, such as audio rights, foreign, and dramatic rights, which can be very important in helping authors earn enough for a new couch to sit on as they frantically write their next book in the hopes of landing the money for a new coffee table." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Attention Writers/Illustrators: "Comment Your Butt Off" Contest! $1,000 Prize! from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Starting March 1, comment to win a five-page website, a branding package, or a five-hour marketing consultation. See details.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #80: Daniel Pinkwater from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "I have had many adventures, including being stranded at night in the Serengeti, living on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, meeting many remarkable people, being in the right place at the right time over and over…and none of those are as much fun as writing." Source: Gwenda Bond.

Check out this fun book trailer for Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle, 2008).

Stacy Whitman: new official site from the editor-writer. Read her recent interview at Cynsations.

Congratulations to author Varian Johnson on his recent profile, "Find Black Authors on Virtual Shelf," by Jeff Salamon in the Feb. 24 issue of the Austin American-Statesman! Peek: "We just want a way to open up the world, or at least some people, to the idea that there's more than just one type of African American children's book." See The Brown Bookshelf.

You Can't Just Be a Writer Anymore by Tess Gerritsen from Murderati. Peek: "These days, being a writer is no longer just about the books. We can no longer slide by like those 1980's slacker writers and turn in one well-written manuscript every year. Now we have to be novelists, salesmen, speakers, and media personalities." Source: April Henry. Note: most of the rest of it holds true, but trade children's/YA writers are not necessarily expected to produce at the same rate; don't panic.

readergirlz's Operation Book Drop 2009 trailer:

Interview with Rosemary Clement-Moore from ChristaCarol Jones. Peek: "I think the paranormal trend isn't new in YA--in fact, Sci-Fi and Fantasy books used to be dismissed by serious literary types as 'juvenile.' Lots of what I pulled off the SFF shelves as a kid is now on the YA shelves." Read a Cynsations interview with Rosemary Clement-Moore.

Cornelius Van Wright: an article and interview from Don Tate in conjunction with 28 Days Later 2009: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "We believe the editors we worked with saw that part of our process was to really do our homework investigating the culture we were illustrating. We would always find friends and neighbors we knew (or got to know) from the culture we were illustrating to find out or confirm whatever questions we may have had about any given topic, clothing or custom dealing with that culture." Note: Neil and his wife, Ying-Hwa were the illustrators of Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Morrow, 2000). Read a Cynsations interview with Neil and Ying-Hwa.

Interview with Author P. J. Hoover and a book giveaway from Christy's Creative Space. Peek: "I love sneaking bits of science and math into my writing! For example, how lower floors are numbered based on i (the imaginary number). What a meniscus is. Counting starting at zero. And most seemingly random numbers I used are actually powers of 2 (as binary numbers are the basis for electrical engineering)." Read a Cynsations interview with P. J.

VCFA Twitter from students and alumni of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Source: Gwenda Bond.

Giveaway: The Forest of Hands and Teeth from Carrie Ryan. Leave a comment to win.

Congratulations to author Kimberly Griffiths Little on signing her three-book deal with Scholastic! Note: a celebratory post, especially recommended to those needing a reminder that dreams can come true. Love those purple shoes!

Interview with new YA fantasy author Cindy Pon from Alex Moore. Peek: "fantasy is my first love as a genre. and i love myth and folklore. at the time, i had just begun as a student of chinese brush painting, and was enjoying learning about my heritage and culture. i thought i could combine my two loves and write a fantasy based on a chinese kingdom." Note: interview is in lower case. Leave a question or comment to enter to win a copy of Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia (Greenwillow, 2009). Source: David Macinnis Gill. Note: I'm especially excited about this book as I've longed for more diversity throughout the body of fantasy literature for young readers.

Congratulations to Bethany Hegedus on the release of Between Us Baxters (WestSide, 2009)! Peek: "It's hard to be a 'Black Sheep Baxter,' at least for 12-year-old Polly. From a poor white family, Polly's best friend, Timbre Ann Biggs, is black, making them the only 'salt-and-pepper' friends in town. Her mom keeps secrets, her dad turns to the 'devil's drink,' and her rich, mean Meemaw makes Sunday dinners a chore. But in that fall of 1959, life in quiet Holcolm County starts to heat up. One by one, thriving colored businesses burn to the ground. When someone throws a note wrapped around a brick through the window of Biggs Repair, Polly worries that Timbre Ann will be blinded by the color of her skin and forget they were ever as close as Polly's mom and Timbre Ann's Aunt Henri have always been. When a tragic fire brings everything to a head, the spotlight falls on Polly's family. Sensitively painting a vivid portrait of the Jim Crow South, Polly's inspiring story captures the defiant spirit of youth in an oppressive small town, just as the seeds of the Civil Rights Movement begin to sprout."

Virtual Author Visits: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, & the Awesome from Kate Messner at Kate's Book Blog. Peek: "Talk to your students about etiquette for a virtual author visit. In many ways, it's just like having a guest speaker in your auditorium or classroom in person, and kids need to know that all the same rules about courteous behavior apply. It will also be important for them to know that technical issues are a possibility and that their quiet cooperation will help you get things fixed more quickly." Note: I predict more virtual visits in tough-budget, higher-tech times and especially recommend them to authors who must limit travel due to health, childcare, day job, or other considerations.

Site-Blog Notes

If you're announcing a contest that will take place between Fridays (AKA so that I probably won't have a chance to highlight it), please feel free to send an email/message with a short announcement paragraph, including applicable dates, the week in advance.

Cynsations Friday round-ups have become quite lengthy. However, I've also heard from many people, that they settle in here every Friday morning to catch up with the kidlitoshere. For those on LJ, MySpace, and Facebook, what are your thoughts? Stay long, or break up the round-ups to a couple of times a week?

On average, the site and blog attract approximately three requests a day, every day, for book donations. See the FAQ for policy information.

More Personally

Special thanks to Anita Shinall and Kelly Czarnecki for their hospitality at the Teen Grid on Second Life on Tuesday! The above avatar was designed for me, though, just for fun, I did pick red hair in honor of Quincie from Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008).

Highlights of the past week included also author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell's talk on school visits at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting at BookPeople. Mark is a smart, funny, conversational and comfortable speaker. He made excellent points on a variety of related topics, some frequently touched upon, others less so.

I made particular note of his caution that "you're physically vulnerable on the road." He reminded us not to skip a "good breakfast" and urged us to travel safely. Mark pointed out that this is especially important because we're often fatigued on the road and, worse, don't even really know where we're going. He reminded us to pick a hotel that has deadbolt locks, not to leave our laptops in the car, to be aware of our surroundings. He recommended never leaving out your purse or wallet and to insisted upon/choose lodging wherein your room door doesn't open to a parking lot.

See Mark's blog, How to Be a Children's Book Illustrator. Read a Cynsations interview with Mark. Here's a peek at Mark (below), speaking to the crowd.

Afterward, a group of us met up for lunch at Waterloo Ice House (across Lamar from the store). Going counterclockwise from the head of the table are Carmen Oliver (back of her blond curls), April Lurie, Brian Yansky, Alison Dellenbaugh, Greg Leitich Smith, Frances Hill, Shana Burg, just a glimpse at the back of Brian Anderson's head and mine, Jennifer Ziegler, and Julie Lake's husband Gary. Photo by Donna Bowman Bratton. (See Donna's report.) Not at all visible in the picture is Julie herself, Mark, and Debbie Gonzales.

This week I've also had the pleasure of visiting with Prof. Wally Hastings class, "The Voice of the Author," at Rutgers--The State University of New Jersey via the university message board system! Thank you to Dr. Hastings and his students for their hospitality and thoughtful questions. What a wonderful conversation! Note: also visiting: Chris Crutcher, Patricia Reilly Giff, and Julius Lester.

Look for my article "Work, e-Chat, Love" on page 179 in the March/April 2009 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read a Cynsations interview with editor Roger Sutton on The Horn Book.

Author Suzanne Crowley sends in this shot (below) of Eternal at the Barnes & Noble in Southlake, Texas. Read a Cynsations interview with Suzanne.

Cynthia Leitich Smith was interviewed about Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) via Native America Calling on Feb. 25. Eternal is the February Book of the Month at NAC! Note: The show goes out to 500,000 listeners. Thank you to Candlewick Press for donating ten giveaway copies!
Eternal: Quick Fire Interview from Debbi Michiko Florence at One Writer's Journey.

Miranda from Eternal is a lot like Carrie Jones. Read a Cynsations interview with Carrie.

Reminder: Author Interview and Book Giveaway with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Beth Revis at writing it out. Peek: "My original concept was elf-vampire, not angel-vampire; that came at the suggestion of my editor, but I loved it and started over again." Note: Beth is giving away a copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) or Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). Deadline: Feb. 28. See details.

Reminder: Enter to Win One of Five Copies of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) from Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central. Here's the giveaway question: "If you had a guardian angel (and maybe you do!), what would his or her name be, and what would they be like?" Contest begins Feb. 1 and ends Feb. 28. See additional details. Note: Thanks to Candlewick Press and Young Adult (& Kids) Book Central!

Reminder: Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Eternal, Tantalize (Win stuff!) from Boy with Books. Comment between now and March 7 to enter to win a copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) or Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002)!

More Cynsational Events

Cynthia will be speaking on "Writing and Illustrating Native American Children's Literature" (with S. D. Nelson) and "Monsters and Magic: Writing Gothic Fantasy Novels for Teenagers" on March 15 at the Tucson Festival of Books.

Cynthia will sign Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) at 3 p.m. April 2 at Candlewick Booth at the annual conference of the Texas Library Association in Houston.

Authors Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith invite you to join them at 1 p.m. April 11 at BookPeople (Sixth and Lamar) in Austin. They will be celebrating the success of Kathi's The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008), which was a National Book Award Finalist and newly crowned ALA Newbery Honor Book, and the release of Cynthia's Eternal (Candlewick, 2009). The event will include very brief readings, entertaining commentary, and a signing by both authors. Please help spread the word! Let me know if you can make it! Hope to see y'all there! Read a Cynsations interview with Kathi.

Cynthia and Greg will visit the Barbara Bush Branch Library in Spring, Texas; at 4 p.m. April 3. Note: Spring is outside of Houston.

Cynthia will visit the YA book club at the Cedar Park (Texas) Public Library at 11 a.m. May 30. Note: Cedar Park is outside of Austin.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Boy with Books; Eternal and Indian Shoes Giveaways

Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Eternal, Tantalize (Win stuff!) from Boy with Books.

"Part of what I loved about Zachary was his interactions with fellow guardian angel and best pal, Joshua. For much of the world, Josh is Zachary’s main connection to 'upstairs,' and there’s a range to their exchanges–sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, often offering a glimpse into heaven itself."

Read the whole interview. Comment between now and March 7 to enter to win a copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) or Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002)!

Cynsational Notes gives Eternal 5/5 for Quality and 4/5 for Popularity. He writes: "Eternal is a definite page-turner with Vampires, Angels, Werebeasts, romance, intrigue, double-crossing, action, and suspense. Just read it already!" Read the whole review.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Author Interview: Kathy Whitehead on Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter

Kathy Whitehead has taught at the elementary level and holds an M. Ed. in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University. Her classroom experience has given her a front row seat to the joy and wonder that literature brings to children. She lives in College Station, Texas; with her husband Bill. They have two children--Jeff and Stephanie.

What were you like as a young reader? Who were your favorite authors? What were your favorite books?

I read all the time as a kid. Trips to the library were a weekly event. I must admit to occasionally reading just a few more pages under the bed with a flashlight after bedtime.

Memories of favorite books include the feeling of being mesmerized by the works of Dr. Seuss and the emotional tug at the heart that Louisa May Alcott wrenched from me through the pages of her books.

What first inspired you to write for children?

I taught fourth grade and reading to my students led to my desire to write for kids.

My writing journey didn't begin though until I stayed home with my own children. Ideas began forming, and I wrote whenever I had the chance.

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

Middle grade mysteries were always a favorite of mine, so that's where I started. I concentrated on the structure of the novel, which led me to read many books about novel writing.

With my concentration on middle grade novels, it may seem odd that the two books that I have published are picture books. I didn't try writing picture books for a very long time, even though I kept filing away ideas for them. I didn't feel like I had time to concentrate on different format.

When I finally felt like branching out to picture books, I discovered that the time I'd spent studying the structure of a novel was time well spent. I realized that the picture book was merely a condensed version of the novel, told through a concentrated selection of words and pictures.

Looking back, what was the single best decision you made in terms of advancing your craft as a writer?

Shortly before my journey into writing picture books, I became a part of a new critique group. Janet Fox, Shirley Hoskins, and I began meeting weekly, which was helpful for several reasons.

I consistently worked on a daily basis, so weekly meetings fit my time format. My critique group not only was helpful to my writing progress, but provided the added bonus of observing the writing process of others, which accelerated my learning process.

Watching someone's manuscript take shape while helping them revise it, provides the critique partner an additional learning situation. And their support of my work through every step of the process has been immeasurable to me.

We last spoke in September 2005 on Looking For Uncle Louie On The Fourth Of July, illustrated by Pablo Torrecilla (Boyds Mills, 2005). Do you have any updates on that book?

My picture book Looking for Uncle Louie on the Fourth of July has made the Fourth of July feel very special to me--almost like my own birthday. It has been great to be able to share the joy of this holiday and discuss the reason for the celebration of this day with kids. And I enjoy seeing kids' eyes light up when they see the lowriders--kind of like a transformer come to life!

Congratulations on the release of Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Putnam, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter is a picture book biography. It shares the inspiring story of Clementine Hunter's life and her wonderful "primitive" artwork.

Clementine was an African-American "primitive" artist who didn't start painting until the age of fifty. She did field labor in her early years on Melrose Plantation in Louisiana.

When she started painting, she did it after putting in a full day's work doing household chores on the plantation, which at that point was a haven for well-known writers and artists to create their craft. Clementine started displaying her work on a clothesline and later in life had her work displayed in museums.

What was your initial inspiration for the story?

I visited Melrose Plantation about fifteen years ago. It had become a museum by then, and I learned about Clementine's life story there.

I thought children would really enjoy her art and learning about the struggles which she overcame.

A few years later, I returned to Melrose, hoping to gain some inspiration for another attempt at the manuscript. I returned home and spent a lot of time sifting through the information about her but with no luck. Several years later, I decided to try again. The approach of how to tell her story finally occurred to me after much review of the information on her life and art.

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

A few months after writing my manuscript, I attended a Houston - SCBWI conference where my [future] editor, Susan Kochan, was a speaker. I submitted my manuscript to her after the conference. She suggested some revisions to the manuscript, which I followed up on, and months later, she offered me a contract.

We still needed images of Clementine's artwork to truly tell her story and finding images for a nonfiction book is the author's duty. I was very fortunate to have some very nice folks put me in touch with Tom Whitehead and the Ann and Jack Brittain family who shared images from their Clementine Hunter collections. This made the book complete.

What did Shane Evans's art bring to your text?

Shane Evans's art deepens the emotional content of Clementine's story and brings a wonderful energy to it. His art meshes beautifully with Clementine's paintings in color and style.

How do you balance being a writer with the demands of being an author (contracts, promotion, etc.)?

Balancing my creative writing work with the business demands of being an author is never easy. I enjoy both aspects of the writing life, but prioritizing is a necessity. I try to channel my energy into a meaningful use of my time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Editor Update: Stacy Whitman

We last spoke in June 2006 about your work as an editor for Mirrorstone Books (an imprint of Wizards of the Coast). What is new in your editorial life since then?

Sadly, a few months ago, I was laid off from Mirrorstone, along with several other Wizards employees from various departments. It all came about in relation to a change in focus for all the company's lines, including books. All newly acquired books, including Mirrorstone books, will now be related to the Dungeons and Dragons brand or other "core brands" like Magic: The Gathering.

For Mirrorstone, that meant that we kept our Practical Guide series, including the Practical Guide to Monsters, which I edited, as well as my Dragon Codex series that started with Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham (Mirrorstone, 2008) and R.A. and Geno Salvatore's The Stowaway (Mirrorstone, 2008).

After last fall season, books like the exciting Hallowmere series ceased publication because they do not tie in to any core brand.

For me, editorially, the layoff opened a few doors. I am currently freelancing for several publishers and am seeking to expand that. I copyedit, proofread, line edit, and do developmental editing for a number of publishers, and in addition I am looking for books to acquire for Tor's children's and YA lines as a freelance consulting editor. At the time of this interview, I'm still looking for the right first book.

To simplify matters for right now, I'm only open to agented submissions and authors with whom I've worked before, including those who have sent me full manuscripts by my request when I was at Mirrorstone.

I also do critiques for individual authors.

What new books that you edited have been released, and what's special about them?

My two main series are the Dragon Codex books and the Hallowmere books. Both are ongoing series full of adventure and magic. The Codex books are written for a middle-grade audience, but I recommend them for readers of all ages, especially readers who grew up with the Dragonlance books.

Hallowmere is a series for teen readers who love dark fantasy and historical fiction. Both series are great for reluctant readers and avid readers alike, which is what I love most about fantasy--how it hooks readers of all types. And me, of course!

[See the book teaser for the first Hallowmere novel, In the Serpents Coils by Tiffany Trent (Mirrorstone, 2007)(author interview)]

The newest of the Dragon Codex books are Bronze Dragon Codex (Mirrorstone, 2008), Black Dragon Codex (Mirrorstone, 2008), and Brass Dragon Codex (Mirrorstone, 2009). They tie in to the Practical Guide to Dragons, and it was fun reinventing an existing shared world while staying true to the spirit of it. The authors who assisted R.D. Henham with these books are Amie Rose Rotruck , Ree Soesbee, and Rebecca Shelley, respectively. Rebecca Shelley is the author who assisted in the first book of the series, Red Dragon Codex.

Queen of the Masquerade by Tiffany Trent and Amanda M. Jenkins and Oracle of the Morrigan by Tiffany Trent and Paul Crilley are the two most recent installments in the Hallowmere series created by Tiffany Trent.

This is the first series I ever acquired, and it's dear to my heart—Tiffany and her co-authors have created an expressive, adventurous series peopled by strong, active girl characters in a time when young girls were expected to be seen and not heard, while still staying true to the historical time period.

What new books are forthcoming?

With the changes at Mirrorstone, Hallowmere's last volume was Oracle of the Morrigan, which I think is a good place to end it (though of course not ideal!) because we get to see how the Unhallowed Fey began. Tiffany Trent has a few inventive books in the works, so I'm sure we'll be seeing more from her soon.

But the Codex books continue on, and I'm just as excited about the next two volumes in the series as I am about the books that have already released.

Then in June 2009, the last Dragon Codex I acquired and had a hand in editing, Green Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham with Clint Johnson's assistance, will be released.

I also worked on several books that won't be published by Mirrorstone due to the changes, but I hope to see them out in print soon. One is already contracted by another publisher, and I hope to be able to say the same about all of them. I want kids and teens to be able to read these books. And who knows, maybe I'll get to work with those authors again myself!

What's new at Mirrorstone? What do you want writers in particular to know about the current status of the imprint?

Mirrorstone is in the capable hands it's always been in—those of Nina Hess, my senior editor. Nina is an amazing editor, and she's been at the editorial helm this whole time, mentoring me and building Mirrorstone with her vision.

Along with the books I already mentioned, they had a strong fall 2008 lineup with Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley (Mirrorstone, 2008)(author interview) and The Stowaway.

With the streamlining, the books coming in the future will be just as excellent as the acclaimed and best-selling adventurous fantasies for children and young adults they've been publishing.

Everyone should, of course, continue to watch Mirrorstone's website as new books are announced, and if you're a writer, keep in mind the new submission guidelines.

They're still looking for great writers for the shared-world series, for which there are all sorts of possibilities. D&D is a very open-ended fantasy setting and they're not looking necessarily for writers with experience playing the game. As always, great fantasy writing is the main requirement.

Writing in a shared world can be a great way for new authors to get experience working with an editor and to get their names out there.

What's new in terms of your own career direction?

Well, I have moved to Utah, where I have a number of friends from college who are writers. In particular, Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells, among many others, have been very supportive in helping me to transition—not least of which by carrying heavy objects for me when I moved, which ended up being twice in a very short while due to an apartment flood when I first moved in!

At Kindling Words, I participated in the editor track and got a lot of excellent advice from a number of editors who are at different stages of their careers. It was a wonderful experience and gave me a lot of new ideas that I'm implementing. For example, I hope to teach several classes in my local community on writing for children and young adults, specifically focusing on genre writing such as fantasy and science fiction.

I currently freelance for several publishers and am looking for more work, especially in children's and young adult genre fiction, including (but not limited to) fantasy and science fiction.

I have experience with all sorts of publishing (educational, newspaper, trade magazine—after all, my first job after college was with Electrical Apparatus magazine: industrial electrical motors), so to pay the bills I'm willing to branch out. But of course my main love stays with the children's book industry.

Hopefully, I'll find the right book for Tor, and it will grow from there, but perhaps the right in-house position will come along as well, and then I'll have some choices to make! And I am working on my own writing too.

Are you working with publishers, writers, etc.?

I work with a number of publishers on various projects from small pamphlets to full books. I prefer to focus on developmental editing, but I am a detail-oriented copyeditor and proofreader as well. I continue to copyedit for Mirrorstone/Wizards, and I've worked with Marshall Cavendish, Covenant Communications, and a few other publishers. Like I said above, I have just begun a relationship with Tor as a freelancer and hope that it will grow.

Also mentioned above, I do critiques for individual authors. I feel I can be of most help to those who are in the submitting stage, and who perhaps might even have gotten one or two rejections and feel they need an experienced editorial eye to help them take their manuscript to the next level.

I have two services: a short critique of the first three chapters and cover/query letter giving an editor's perspective on the first impression, or a critique of the full manuscript, which would include a full editorial letter and a full edit of the manuscript itself. More information on that can be found on my site along with recommendations from authors I've worked with in the past.

I love to help authors find solutions through coaching, careful questioning, and suggesting solutions. That's what I loved about working at Mirrorstone—working with new authors is thrilling, because they love to hear what an editor has to say and welcome their unique position in the creative process.

I'm also glad to consult with less-experienced writers and give them advice on their projects, though I hope that they have finished their manuscript first because that would be the time an editor's help is most useful.

How can people find out more about your services?

I'm still working on getting a full website up and running, but for now they can refer to my LiveJournal, where I have posted a listing of my critique services, including pricing and recommendations.

My submission guidelines for consideration for Tor are simple: agents or authors who have worked with me in the past may email me at stacylwhitman AT with the cover letter, synopsis, and first three chapters, and I will get in touch if I want to read more.

I have gone green both for the simplicity of submissions and because as a freelancer, I can't guarantee my physical address will remain the same long-term.

And of course, any publishers who are interested in working with me can contact me via email (stacylwhitman AT and we can discuss details.

How goes your own writing?

Very well, actually! I am one of those editors who likes to write, but feels more at home on the editorial side of the desk. When I'm editing full time, that's where my creative energy goes, and that makes me a very good editor—but it leaves little time for my own writing.

Currently I have had a little more time than normal to work on my own YA fantasy novel, which has been a great experience both in learning the craft from the other side, and to discuss with other writers how they accomplish certain effects. Even with my own writing, I'm always finding new ways to communicate with my authors, too.

I've found that keeping in touch with a community of writers is essential to my writing process. I joined a friend's writing group, which of course gives me weekly deadlines.

Also, I participated in jonowrimo, which you may know was started by Lessons from a Dead Girl author Jo Knowles (Candlewick, 2007)(author interview) to get a head start on Nanowrimo and doesn't require that we start a new project.

It's a great way for writers to encourage each other on their writing goals, whether it's to finish a complete first draft (me) or a revision goal. Once again, I didn't finish a first draft during JoNoWriMo, which was my goal, but it was great to have the encouragement to work toward that goal.

Looking back, what has the last couple of years taught you?

I feel like the girl in the movie who says, "How much time do you have?" Because I've learned so much, and much of it is hard to quantify.

I've learned how to be a better editor from all my amazing coworkers, especially from Nina Hess and Phil Athans and Peter Archer.

I've learned to be a better negotiator and that negotiating with agents and authors isn't really all that scary. We're all on the same team and want the best for the book.

I think the biggest thing I've learned is how to become a better communicator in all facets of the job. Nina taught me how to phrase my critiques and suggestions so that they communicate more precisely with each author's individual personality—which allows us to understand each other better off the page as well as on.

Going to conferences to talk to teachers, librarians, and writers about Mirrorstone's books was as exciting for the chance to talk about all books with wonderful people as it was to help them know all about Mirrorstone's books specifically—but it was doubly exciting to return to a show a year later and have people recognize our books and remember how much they loved reading one, or how much a child they knew loved them.

And isn't that what it's all about? Getting kids to read great books and to grow in their love of reading is the goal of all of us in children's literature.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Just that this isn't the last you'll hear from me! I'm not sure exactly what my next permanent step will be, but I have plenty of options and I've been having a good time exploring them.

In the meantime, I look forward to working with a variety of individuals and companies to make good books even better.

Morganville Vampire Series Giveaway

Morganville Vampire Series Giveaway from Karen Mahoney: writing, life & soul. Peek: "One lucky winner could own all five books (so far) in Rachel Caine's fabulous YA Morganville Vampires series." Deadline: end of the day (anywhere) Wednesday, Feb. 25. See details.

Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel. Peek: "Morganville is a planned vampire community, and there's loads we--and the main characters--don't know about the town, but find out as we move alone. That's the fun of it."

Cynsational Notes

Check back this Friday for more news and giveaways from around the Web and Cynsations.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Author Interview: Lee Bennett Hopkins on America at War

Lee Bennett Hopkins has written and edited numerous award-winning books for children and young adults, as well as professional texts and curriculum materials. He has taught elementary school and served as a consultant to school systems throughout the country.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Hopkins graduated Kean University, Bank Street College of Education, and holds a Professional Diploma in Educational Supervision and Administration from Hunter College. In 1980, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Kean University.

In 1989, he received the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for "outstanding contributions to the field of children's literature" in recognition of his work; 2009 brought him the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Poetry for Children recognizing his aggregate body of work.

Among his original collections are Been to Yesterdays: Poems of a Life (Boyds Mills Press, 1995), an autobiographical book of poetry that received the prestigious Christopher Medal and a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Golden Kite Honor Award, Alphathoughts: Alphabet Poems (Boyds Mills, 2003), and City I Love (Abrams, 2009), illustrated by jazz musician, Marcellus Hall.

His creativity is the result of his passion for poetry and his unflagging belief that poetry is a necessity for children, at home and in the classroom.

His award-winning series of American History through poetry for children and young adults include Hand in Hand: An American History Through Poetry, illustrated by Peter Fiore (1994), My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States (2000), and America At War (2008), both illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (all Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books).

At the heart of all his writing is the dedication in bringing children and books together. "You must teach children to love books," he insists.

Congratulations on being named the 2009 NCTE Poetry Award Winner! What did you think when you'd heard that you received this award?

This award means a great deal to me.I have been involved with NCTE since the late 1960's During the 1970's when served on the Board of Directors the Award was established by Bee Cullinan in honor of her son who was killed in an automobile accident.

I chaired the second award given to Aileen Fisher (1978) and the 9th award that went to Valerie Worth (1991). In addition, I have known all 14 past recipients, many of them who are (or were) dear friends. Poets such as David McCord, Aileen Fisher, Myra Cohn Livingston, Eve Merriam, and Lilian Moore were by poetry buddies!

Congratulations on the success of America at War, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (Simon & Schuster, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

America at War took about four years to compile. I knew from the start I wanted Stephen to illustrate the volume, our fifth collaboration. In addition to celebrated poets (Whitman, Sandburg, Crane, et. al. ), I wanted to include as many new poems by contemporary poets as possible. The volume contains over thirty works especially commissioned for the collection.

The thrust of the book is spelled out in the introduction when I state: "America at War is not about war. It is about the poetry of war."

The poems that are truly heartbreaking are those that deal with the devastation war has on those who must endure consequences. A poem like "Graveyard" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich stands out strongly in my mind and heart since it was written from her heart. It is a true picture of her beloved brother who committed suicide due to the stress of war.

And my own "Once More" (for C.J.E.) is a true tale of a young soldier being alone on Christmas Eve, hoping someone might invite him for a family Christmas dinner. The picture of a young man, a young soldier...alone...on Christmas heartfelt.

What advice do you have for those interested in writing poetry for young readers?

My advice to writers who want to write poetry is to study the past. Look at the NCTE Poetry Award winners' work. Study it. These are among the giants in the field of poetry. They epitomize the brilliance of wordplay--the genius of light verse in the hands of masters like David McCord and X. J. Kennedy, the passionate works by Eve Merriam, Myra Cohn Livingston, and Nikki Grimes. The craft of Valerie Worth, etc.

If you could change one aspect of publishing, what would it be?

It would be to have more editors who know the craft of poetry...who would be willing to take chances with new poets, to get away from the hangup that exists that every book should be thematic.

A book of poetry should be a book of poetry...about many different topics...about what the poet must say...feel...hear inside one's self.

You've had a distinguished career. What memories would you like to share with us?

In my early career (and since) I have interviewed over two-hundred authors and illustrators. Memories abound. How could they not?

Not too many can tell about long conversations with giants as Dr. Seuss, P. L. Travers, Berta and Elma Hader, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats as well as personal moments with good friends, Paula Danziger, Karla Kuskin, Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff, Avi, Hilary mention a wee few.

My life has been blessed.

Looking back, I cannot believe I have created more anthologies for children and young adults than anyone else in the history of children's literature. I have also done novels, picture books, a host of professional books, and oodles of articles for professional journals.

What can your fans look forward to next?

This spring, I have three new works being published: Sky Magic, illustrated by Mariusz Stawarski (Dutton), Incredible Inventions, illustrated by newcomer Julia Sarcone-Roach (Greenwillow), and City I Love, illustrated by jazz-musician Marcellus Hall (Abrams).

City I Love is quite exciting in that it is the first book of my own poetry to appear in quite a long time.

On the horizon is Sharing the Seasons (McElderry Books, 2010), illustrated by David Diaz, a huge collection bringing seasons to a new view like never before.

David has created an entirely new palette for this collection. His art is mind-boggling. Not only is David a marvelous artist, he is a dear friend. Even before he won the Caldecott Award, we have always wanted to do a book together. We've come full circle with...Seasons.

In addition, I have at least six new projects finished and in production.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

I always have, and always will continue to pass the poetry. I ask that all adults pass it along to our youth, too. Please?

Happy Poetry-ing.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Visit with Author Cynthia Leitich Smith on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Second Life

YA Gothic fantasy author Cynthia Leitich Smith will discuss Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and related forthcoming books on the teen grid of Teen Second at Second Life at 3 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Feb. 24. See more information. Note: this is the rescheduled date and time. Here's a sneak peek at the venue...