Thursday, April 30, 2009

Author Interview: Kay Cassidy on The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest

Kay Cassidy is the first-time author of The Cinderella Society (Egmont USA, April, 2010). She also is the mastermind behind The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest, a "free library outreach program for teen and youth librarians."

See information on library registration, librarian resources, and author participation.

Cynthia Interviews Kay

What made you decide to create The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest?

As a YA author and proud owner of a well-worn library card, I wanted to give something back to all the librarians whose book recommendations helped me grow as a writer and fed my imagination over the years.

With the economy in turmoil, funding for public libraries is taking a major hit. School libraries are struggling as well. So I set out to create a totally free program that teen and youth librarians could use to keep kids excited about reading.

Plus, I'm a huge fan of trivia, scavenger hunts, mysteries so The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest was a natural fit. I would've been all over this when I was younger. Trivia fans... unite!

What exactly is The Hunt?

The Hunt is a brand-new, super easy, totally free library outreach program for teen and youth librarians. The program is open to librarians in the U.S. and Canada, in public libraries and school libraries alike. It offers year-round free programming that will keep readers coming back to the library for more.

Over 120 YA and middle grades authors have created a ten-question scavenger hunt (i.e. super fun trivia quiz) for one or more of their books. Scavenger hunts include questions like "What was the color of Moe's hideous car?" or "What is Gemma's favorite comfort food?" Every scavenger hunt also has a special note from the author to give it a personal touch.

How does The Hunt work?

Once librarians register their library, their readers (called "hunters") are eligible to participate.

Hunters can check out the list of more than 200 titles in The Hunt, read the book of their choice, complete the scavenger hunt, and turn it in to their librarian. The librarian checks the answers against the quick answer key.

If the hunter gets at least eight out of ten answers correct, the librarian can enter the hunter in the monthly contest.

(Note: All scavenger hunts must be submitted to a participating librarian in order to be eligible for the contest. Only participating librarians may enter hunters via the official contest entry form.)

And thus, the prizes! What kinds of prizes do you have, and how can people win?

Every month, I'll choose one lucky hunter as the winner. The winning hunter will receive a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card (good in stores or online) to use for whatever their heart desires.

Even better? When a hunter wins, the host library wins too… a library prize tote filled with more terrific scavenger hunt books for the library's collection. It's a win-win!

Definitely a win! So, tell me more about your upcoming YA debut. When will hunters see a scavenger hunt for it in The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest?

My debut novel, The Cinderella Society, is the first in a new YA series. The series takes readers behind the veil of a secret society of extraordinary girls where ultimate life makeovers are the main attraction.

Lifelong outsider Jess Parker thinks life on the inside is her ultimate fantasy until she discovers the real force behind her exclusive society. It's a battle of good vs. evil played out on the high school battlefield, and the Cindys in power need Jess on special assignment.

When the mission threatens to destroy her dream life come true, Jess is forced to choose between living a fairy tale and honoring the Sisterhood...and herself.

The Cinderella Society will be an April 2010 release from Egmont USA with book two in the series to follow in Spring 2011. I'm very excited about sharing a scavenger hunt of my own in The Hunt. Come on, next April!

Kay Interviews Cynthia

Now, let me turn the tables on you for a minute. First of all, thank you so much for participating in The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest. If it weren't for authors like you, The Hunt couldn't exist. Authors are incredibly busy people, so I owe a debt of gratitude to each of the authors (like you!) who graciously volunteered their time to create a scavenger hunt.

What made you take time out of your busy schedule to participate in The Hunt?

I've been active in promoting reading on the 'net for some years now, and I was thrilled to see such an exciting and innovative new idea. I'm also always looking for ways to show that the relationship between books and technology can be cooperative rather than competitive. Plus, I, too, was a huge library kid, and I'm happy to pay it forward in any way I can.

How did you decide which book(s) to create a scavenger hunt for?

I went with those titles that spoke to the age level of readers who'd be active online (PDF links to follow): Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001); Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007); and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009).

Do you think you would’ve wanted to be a hunter when you were younger?

Absolutely! It's wonderful that young readers today have so many opportunities to learn more about writing and reading and to celebrate their love of books online.

Hunger Mountain Auction: Bid on Critiques with Literary Agents & Authors & More

The Hunger Mountain Spring Fundraising Auction will feature manuscript critiques with notable authors and literary agents as well as limited edition letterpress broadsides!

All items will be available for bidding at The Hunger Mountain Store, beginning at noon EST May 2. Bidding ends at noon EST on May 9. One-on-one critiques in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, writing for children, writing for young adults, and writing for the stage will be conducted by phone, email, or snail mail.

The auction offers opportunities to work with award-winning children's-YA authors Donna Jo Napoli, Sarah Ellis, Martine Leavitt, and Tim Wynne-Jones. Highly acclaimed picture book author-illustrator Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Newbery Honor author Marion Dane Bauer will also be offering their expertise.

In addition, literary agent Mark McVeigh, founding member of The McVeigh Agency, has donated a full-length children's/YA fiction critique and Tracy Marchini, agent assistant at Curtis Brown, Ltd., has donated a middle grade/YA critique.

Those who write for adults may bid for critiques with such authors as Philip Graham, Jess Row, Thomas Christopher Greene, Natasha Saje, Xu Xi, Michael Martone, David Jauss, and David Wojahn.

Been toiling away on a script or stage production? Bid on a full-length play critique with playwright Gary Moore.

Sue William Silverman is offering a full-length creative nonfiction manuscript critique, complete with a complimentary signed copy of her latest book Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir (University of Georgia Press, 2009).

Also available are signed broadsides from the Stinehour Broadside Award Series including work by authors Alice Hoffman, Neil Shepard, David Rivard, and Lucia Perillo. These letterpress broadsides are all signed and numbered, limited edition, and frame worthy, making them the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates the artistry of literature!

All purchases are charitable in support of Hunger Mountain's non-profit mission to cultivate engagement with and conversation about the arts by publishing high-quality, innovative literary and visual art by both established and emerging artists, and by offering opportunities for interactivity and discourse.

Cynsational Notes

Hunger Mountain, the Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal of the Arts, is both a print publication and an online destination for readers, writers, artists and art lovers. (Look for Hunger Mountain online early this summer). Learn more about Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Voice: Ellen Jensen Abbott on Watersmeet

Ellen Jensen Abbott is the first-time author of Watersmeet (Marshall Cavendish, April 1, 2009). From the promotional copy:

From her birth, Abisina has been an outcast--for the color of her eyes and skin, and for her lack of a father. Only her mother's status as the village healer has kept her safe.

But when a mythic leader arrives, Abisina’s life is ripped apart. She escapes alone to try to find the father and the home she has never known.

In a world of extremes, from the deepest prejudice to the greatest bonds of duty and loyalty, Abisina must find her own way and decide where her true hope lies.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you’re debuting this year?

Like most writers, I was a voracious reader. I swallowed books whole, investing totally in the worlds of each novel.

I remember coming into the kitchen as a teenager after reading a book called May I Cross Your Golden River? by Barbara Corcoran and Paige Dixon (out of print). I was sobbing, but my mom knew me well enough to not bother asking, "Are you hurt?" Instead she said, "Are you reading another good book?"

My style of reading was highly entertaining to some of my high school friends. If the narrator said, "She smiled angelically," so did I. If it said, "She grunted and grimaced," so did I. I would get pulled out of my book by my friends, giggling at the faces I was making. It got embarrassing!

So when the main character of Watersmeet came to me and insisted I tell her story, she was, of course, the heroine of a young adult novel. And since I was devoted to C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia—I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) thirteen times!—she had to be in a fantasy.

I'm sure this is why I'm a YA author now. I think tweens and teens are much better at reading with their hearts, before they learn how to find the metaphor and interpret symbols and consider if a text is modern or post-modern. I found that kind of reading stimulating in college, but I missed the joy.

As a fantasy writer, how did you go about building your world?

I find world building a wild mix of almost philosophical considerations and minute detail.

Watersmeet is a prequel to the first book I wrote and is set in the same land, Seldara. As I began to build the world of Seldara, I wondered about its origins, history, religion, myths, and heroes. That's the philosophical element.

When I sent that manuscript around, Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish liked it but said it read like a sequel. So, I went back and started writing the heroic stories that I had invented as background. That book became Watersmeet—and Margery bought it!

Although it seemed like I had written hundreds of "wasted" pages, it made the world much more three-dimensional. I know how the past and the future will affect each other in Seldara, where the societies I created are headed and how deep the conflicts among them go.

On a more practical level, the world of Seldara is based on the woodsy part of New Hampshire where I grew up. But it's the White Mountains writ large—as I saw them as a kid.

And here's where the nitty-gritty comes in: creating a map so the sun always sets in the west, following a calendar so spring doesn't last for six months, researching tree types so there are no desert plants in an deciduous forest, reading up on archery so that a character who is described as a great archer doesn't miss a target a beginner would hit.

In world building, you have to follow your decisions to their natural conclusions. If one of my dwarves lives primarily underground, how can she farm? If centaurs can speak with hoofed animals (as my centaurs can), would they eat them? How much faster would a faun move across given terrain than a human?

There are lots of details to keep straight, but that's the fun of it! And the detail can be a relief from questions of what kinds of gods do these folk worship.

Cynsational Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Author Interview: Alex Flinn on A Kiss In Time

Congratulations on the release of A Kiss in Time (HarperCollins, 2009)! Could you tell us a little about the novel?

A Kiss in Time is the story of Talia, whose entire life has been devoted to the avoidance of spindles. She's been very sheltered and longs for the time when she can travel, as other princesses do. But when she touches the spindle shown to her by an old lady, she falls into a deep sleep.

It is also the story about Jack, who lives three hundred years later. His parents send him on a tour of Europe, a tour he finds very dull. So he sneaks away from the tour group to look for the beach. But he gets lost and ends up in a strange place, hidden from the world, where everything looks old fashioned, like Colonial Williamsburg, and everyone is asleep. He sees a castle, enters it, and goes upstairs. There, he sees a very beautiful girl his own age, and he feels compelled to kiss her.

Well, that's where the problems start. Talia wasn't supposed to touch the spindle, so everyone is mad at her when they realize they've been sleeping three-hundred years. And Jack wasn't supposed to kiss the princess, so they throw him in the dungeon for sullying her. But Talia comes down to the dungeon and tells Jack that she will free him from his imprisonment...if he takes her back to Miami with him.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

I was writing another fairy tale story, one that didn't work out, and I started thinking about Sleeping Beauty. The story neglects to tell us what happens when the princess wakes up a hundred or so years later.

I grew up loving Sleeping Beauty, particularly Tchaikovsky's version, but since I grew up in New York, the tales of Washington Irving also played an important part in my life.

I remember listening to Rip Van Winkle on audio in the school library on snowy days when we couldn't go to the playground (The version I remember even had songs!). I also loved the play "Brigadoon," which is about a town that wakes for only one day every hundred years, and Woody Allen's movie, "Sleeper."

It struck me that Sleeping Beauty was really sort of the same type of story, the story of someone who oversleeps and comes back into a whole different world. I started writing this story, and I never finished the other one.

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

The book was a quick write for me. Once I started writing, both characters' viewpoints came flowing out of me, which was a relief after the other book I'd struggled with.

All told, it took about eight months. Then, another year to publish. There are eighteen months between this book and my last because of the one I chucked.

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

The main challenge of the book was to make there be some conflict, other than whether the boy and the girl would eventually fall in love, some obstacle. I was already very familiar with the underlying story, and the book was set in my hometown. I decided the conflict would come in the form of the evil fairy, Malvolia, who is very upset that Talia has been awakened by someone whom Malvolia believes is not her true love.

I tried very hard to make Malvolia a fully-realized character. In the story, Malvolia puts the curse on Beauty because she is upset about not being invited to a party. While I had dealt with party envy because I have young daughters who've been heartbroken, on occasion, at not being invited to other kids' birthday parties, I didn't really think this was sufficient reason for Malvolia to want Talia dead. There ends up being a much greater, and more understandable, reason why Malvolia hates Talia's father and tries to take it out on Talia.

Other, smaller challenges, came from the timing. How would people not know about the kingdom? What would happen once they awakened? And how would it end?

I was especially taken with with your depictions of girls and women in the story. Could you give us some insights as to how, considering the original fairy tale, you approached the novel in terms of gender and character(s)?

There are so many stories, through the years, about girls who are treated as property that can be moved around at their fathers' or later, husbands' wills.

Whether it is the Bennet girls in Austin's novels, set in England, who must live their whole lives in hopes of making a felicitous marriage to satisfy their parents and society, or the women in Lisa See's novels, set in China, who undergo painful foot binding (including the breaking of their toes) so that they can marry well, women seldom have free will.

This is particularly apparent in fairy tales. My previous fairy tale novel was inspired by the idea of Beauty (in Beauty and the Beast) sacrificing herself to save her father.

This one was inspired by the idea of Sleeping Beauty being kept a virtual prisoner to keep her away from spindles, which were both common household objects and a fairly obvious symbol of male virility.

When she finally reaches her sixteenth birthday, she is supposed to marry, which symbolizes freedom, but since she hasn't met her husband, it will really be a new form of imprisonment.

My thought was that women haven't changed that much, inside, in the past several hundred years, though society's treatment of them has in some cases. So a girl like Sleeping Beauty might be told that she can't go out, can't touch a spindle, or what all, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't scheme against it. In my story, the very first time Talia gets a bit of freedom, she pricks her finger on a spindle. But, because she wakes in 2009, the world treats her very differently.

Do you have a vision for your career as an author or take it book-to-book or both? How does that come together in your mind?

I've thought about this a lot. This book is sort of a departure for me.

My first five books were realistic fiction, and then I wrote a book, Beastly (HarperCollins, 2007), which is a modern Beauty and the Beast retelling, set in New York City. But that book would still appeal to largely the same audience as my earlier books because it was a male narrator and sort of a violent, suspenseful book.

I wanted to write another fairy tale book, for kids who enjoyed Beastly. I think it's important that, if readers like a book, that something else by me may appeal.

But A Kiss in Time is a gentler book, and it's funnier than anything else I've written. I'm working on another fairy tale book right now, but I'll probably go back to realistic books in the future, because I enjoy the impact they have on readers too. I feel a sense of loyalty to the readers of my realistic books because my books have been important to them.

Of the ways you reach out to your readers, which do you think are most effective and why?

I'm fortunate to be able to attend a lot of teacher and librarian conferences. These lead to school visit invitations which allow me to meet my readers directly.

Do you work with a critique group, a partner, or exclusively with your editor? Why does that work for you?

I work alone, but I have some friends, including authors Debbie Reed Fischer, Marjetta Geerling, and Joyce Sweeney, who read my books before I send them in to my editor.

The critique-group format doesn't seem to work for me. My books tend to work on a micro level--like, each chapter will be good--but need help on a macro level, like whether the plot is too complicated. So reading each chapter aloud doesn't get me much help. I need someone to read my whole book.

Also, I just don't like sharing my work until it is perfect in my mind. I wrote my whole first book with very little help from anyone until it was almost done, mostly because I didn't know any writers.

Then, I got a critique group for my next four books, which was mostly social for me (I still get together socially with a group of writers three-to-four times a year). The critique group was an hour away, so when gas prices soared, I stopped attending and wrote Beastly and Kiss without the group. That's when I realized I was better off on my own. I have the utmost faith in my editor, Antonia Markiet, so that helps a lot.

So far, what's your favorite YA novel of 2009 and why?

Well, it's only February [note: Cynsations works ahead], so I haven't read a whole lot of 2009 novels yet. However, I really enjoyed a first novel, Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph (MTV, May 2009), which is about a girl who is extremely shy, but who comes alive as a radio host.

I was sort of invisible when I was in high school (This was brought home to me recently, when I visited my high school to be honored for my accomplishments and realized that the teachers and administration remembered all the other honorees--which included Jeff Bezos of Amazon--but not me), so I related to the character who was a different person in her heart and mind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cynsational News, Eternal T-shirt Giveaway & Kansas-Arkansas Report

Enter to Win an Eternal T-shirt this month at! Check out the available styles. Read a Cynsations interview with logo designer Gene Brenek. See the five-star review of Eternal from TeensReadToo. Peek: "This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope."

More News

Author Libba Bray will be doing a reading of The Sweet Far Thing and chatting at from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST on April 28th.

The McVeigh Agency
: a boutique literary agency handling writers, illustrators, photographers, and graphic novelists for both the adult and children’s markets. Note: children's/YA author/illustrator clients include: Steve Björkman, the illustrator of Santa Knows (Scholastic Book Club); VCFA graduate Rebecca Van Slyke; Pooja Makhijani; and April Fritz Young.

Coveside Writing Workshop & Retreat. Peek: "Now in its eleventh year, Coveside Writing Workshop & Retreat is the uniquely intensive, uniquely intimate, hands-on writing workshop for writers of all genres. Through a pyramid of guided meditation, free-writing, editing and revision, Anita Riggio leads the writer to discover the deeply personal wellspring of images and ideas that gives resonance to writing. Established and emerging writers alike will leave this workshop exhilarated, exhausted--and brimming with stories only they can write." Dates: May 16 and May 17; June 6 and June 7; Oct. 4 and Oct. 5. Note: $325 includes lunches and a festive dinner at the author's home and studio. See more information.

Editor/Author Interview with Jill Santopolo from Holly at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "High quality writing is the most important thing to me. I love working on well-written, well-crafted books. And then the second most important thing is a cool concept—something different and fresh and unique. I always like books that project a feeling of empowerment."

Marvelous Marketer: Anastasia Goodstein, editor-in-chief of Ypulse from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "One thing we as writers know how to do that other folks trying to market products sometimes don't is writing. Blogs and other websites love good, free content. Guest post, offer to write newsletter articles, etc. and make sure your book is mentioned and/or integrated in some way (include the cover!). Work with your publicist to be able to do book giveaways combined with Q&As for blogs."

Check out this book trailer for Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender (Hyperion, 2009).

An Author's Responsibility by Tracy Marchini at My VerboCity. Peek: "I'd be interested to hear from writers, editors and agents - what responsibilities does one have if they create media for children? Where do you draw the line between age-appropriateness and censorship? How much power do you think children's media has to change the way we socialize?"

Pondering Adult Characters In Children's Books by Gail Gauthier from Original Content. Peek: "Our social order is run by adults, making children outsiders. Outsider child readers can connect with outsider adult characters." See also Adult Protagonists in Children's Books by Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk.

Teaching Authors: Six Children's Authors Who Also Teach Writing (April Halprin Wayland; Carmela Martino; Esther Hershenhorn; Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford; JoAnn Early Macken; Mary Ann Rodman). Peek: "Here, we will share our unique perspective as writing teachers who are also working writers. While part of our goal is to discuss what we've learned about writing and the teaching of writing, we also hope to accomplish something here that we can't do on our websites: facilitate conversations between writers, teachers, and librarians about the subjects we love best--writing, teaching writing, and reading."

More Personally

Exciting news of late included a weekend rave review ("Romance in Eternal Rivals Twilight" by Kimberly J. Smith in the arts-and-entertainment section of The Dallas Morning News. Note: the review was originally posted at Cool Kids Read. Peek: "A true page-turner, I can't imagine any fan of gothic suspense/romance not thoroughly enjoying this--and not just YA readers either."

Entrevista a Cynthia Leitich Smith: an interview from Los Bloguitos. Peek: "Sí, mi último libro es Eternal. Estoy esperando un libro con dibujos, Holler Loudly (Dutton, 2009), que será un cuento original del sureste." Note: translated from my replies.

Event Report

Road trip! Last Tuesday, Greg and I loaded up a rental Ford and took off north on I-35, through Dallas to Oklahoma...

We stopped for lunch at the Two Frogs Grill in Ardmore. Culinary highpoint of the trip. I had the most delicious ham-and-cheese sandwich on Texas toast. Plus, talk about atmosphere!

In addition to this nifty stage, hanging above our booth was an autographed Willie Nelson guitar, which spoke profoundly to our inner Austinites.
This was followed by much more driving up through the southern plains. We could see evidence of the wildfires in Oklahoma. I looked really hard for Big Foot to no avail.

We were on our way to Ottawa High School in Ottawa, Kansas.

Thanks so much to Sheryl, the OHS librarian, and Dr. Bushman of The Writing Conference. I had such an amazing time, visiting with teens and teachers at the school that day as well as young writers who'd won or placed in the writing contest (and their families) that evening. Notes: (a) check out the Literature Festival! I spoke there in 2003. (b) what a tremendously inspiring group of YA readers! I was seriously charmed. The photo above shows an informal group right after one of my three presentations.

Dr. Bushman was a tremendous host, and he kindly invited us to relax for a couple of hours in his home. He apologized that gigantic flower was late blooming, but we didn't mind. What a huge and magical blossom it was, just waiting for our oohs and ahhs!

A Jayhawk myself, I appreciated his home decor. We're talking about a dedicated professor emeritus here. In the yard, he has blue flowers spelling out "K" and red ones spelling out "U," or at least he's working on it.

But this is the takeaway: Dr. Bushman is one of those champions of reading and writing who's touched more lives than he can ever imagine. I count myself among the lucky ones.

The next day, we were off to Russellville, Arkansas; for a local public library event. Here's Greg, checking messages at the local Fairfield Marriott. Note: apparently, pal Jennifer Holm was in the area at the same time, and we missed her. Authors really should have a national flight plan filing system for this very reason.

I gave a brief talk, and then we had pizza and pasta! It was a tremendous group of teens, tweens, and families.

This is a sort of a middle-of-the-dinner shot. Some folks are chowing down, others up and about in the library. If you look closely, you can see Greg with his mouth stuffed (ha!). I was especially impressed with the YA readers and their parents. Such great questions.

And then I did a signing with photos and other glorious happiness! Sadly, not all of my pics turned out, but I'll work on getting the URL of a boy who's campaigning to work a word of his own into the language a' la Frindle.

This library vixen is Lauren, the YA lit queen of Russellville! (Good luck at grad school!)

The next day, I hosted a workshop on "Writing for Young Readers" (here's a "before" shot) in the quaint historical building that was the original library.

We had a lovely mix of teen and adult writers. See Workshop by Justus M. Bowman from Across the Multiverse. Peek: "This character was someone I would have never come up with, so when Cynthia told each of us to write a story in 15 minutes, I grew concerned. Ha ha. It turned out okay." (Devious thing that I am...)

And afterward, Lauren and Co. rewarded us with lunch at Italian Gardens Cafe downtown.

Perhaps you're wondering what a hard-working writer does for 24 hours in the car. Well, at least 14.5 of them were spent listening to a seriously first-rate audio production of Dracula, an overdue necessity as I'm in the midst of writing Blessed. Note: it's different to listen than read. The ear hears things that the eye can't see.

Don't miss Greg's report!

Monday, April 20, 2009

YALSA's 2009 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees Include Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith

I'm honored to report that Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) has been included among the 25 nominees for the 2009 YALSA Teens' Top Ten List!

From YALSA: "Teens' Top Ten is a 'teen choice' list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year!

"Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country.

"Nominations are posted in April during National Library Week, and teens across the country vote on their favorite titles each year during Teen Read Week (Oct. 18 to Oct. 24). Readers aged 12 to 18 can vote right here, online, anytime that week."

The 10 nominations that receive the most votes during Teen Read Week will be named the official Teens' Top Ten.

See all the nominees (PDF)! Learn more about: Kristin Cashore; Kristin & P.C. Cast; Cassandra Clare; Suzanne Collins; Isamu Fukui; Neil Gaiman; John Green; Joanne Harris; Ellen Hopkins; E. Lockhart; Zoe Marriott; Lisa McMann; Stephenie Meyer; Katy Moran; Patrick Ness; Alyson Noel; Robin Palmer; Tamora Pierce; Elizabeth Scott; Cynthia Leitich Smith; Sherri L. Smith; Lynn Weingarten; Nancy Werlin; Lisa Yee.

Thank you to YALSA and Candlewick Press!

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to Win an Eternal T-shirt this month at! Check out the available styles. Read a Cynsations interview with logo designer Gene Brenek. See the five-star review of Eternal from TeensReadToo. Peek: "This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope."

Win a Copy of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, sponsored by Brooke Taylor. Leave a comment at Brooke's LJ to enter. Blog about the contest, and send Brooke the link (in comments) for extra chances to win. Deadline: April 22. Peek:

"Acclaimed authors Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci have united in geekdom to edit short stories from some of the best-selling and most promising geeks in young adult literature: M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

"With illustrated interstitials from comic book artists Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley, Geektastic covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. Whether you're a former, current, or future geek, or if you just want to get in touch with your inner geek, Geektastic will help you get your geek on." Read Cynsations interviews with Holly and Cecil.

More News

Author Tammi Sauer (above) shows off Cowboy Camp, illustrated by Mike Reed (Sterling, 2005), with a few of the 1,500 preschool cowpokes who celebrated Read Across Oklahoma at the OKC Zoo on April 7. Tammi writes: "I feel so blessed to have been part of such an amazing event. The Read Across Oklahoma Committee, the sponsors, and countless volunteers put tons of time, energy, and heart into creating a memorable day for lots and lots of little buckaroos. One word captures the feeling behind it all: Yeehaw!" See Pre-schoolers Descend on Zoo from the Edmond Sun.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #110: Featuring Jason Stemple and Jane Yolen from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "A book with photos has to be overshot, needing many more photos than just the ones he already has. But, of course, unlike posed pictures, he has to get what he finds. Still, as Pasteur said, 'Chance favors the prepared mind.'" Read a Cynsations interview with Jane.

Three Tips for a Successful Book Fair from 100 Scope Notes. Peek: "Book fairs come with plenty of things that are definitely not books. Software, games, pencils with all manner of fluffy and/or furry tops--there's a lot of stuff to sort through. If you don’t like the idea of selling those items, stick to your guns."

Children's Books Bookshelf from The New York Times Book Review highlights debut author Kekla Magoon. Peek: "Magoon’s first novel shows movingly how the two sons of a civil rights leader come to bear the cost of the struggle."

Your Approximately Perfect Writing Life by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: "What's important to you? What would spell success for you in the writing life? Have you written down your goals? Look at each one closely. Are they truly your goals and desires?"

Interview - Elizabeth C. Bunce by P.J. Hoover at the Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: " occasionally maddening a job as this is, it's still just about the coolest gig out there. And you'll go crazy if you don't stop and remember that every once in a while." Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Donna Bray, co-Publisher at Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, on Title Changes from Agent Kristin at Pub Rants. Peek: "I have in the past stood up for a title that sales was unsure of--some felt, for instance, that We Are The Ship by Kadir Nelson was not obvious enough, even with the subtitle 'The Story of Negro League Baseball.' Every day, editors and publishers do support the vision and instincts of the creative people we work with–-and we bump up regularly against the demands of the marketplace, which presents more and greater challenges daily."

Marvelous Marketer - Ruta Rimas (Assistant Editor, Balzer + Bray) by Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "I certainly Google prospective authors, more so for a complete picture of the person than for knowing if they have a web presence or platform (note: authors, take down any embarrassing pictures of yourself that you do not want editors/agents/readers to see)."

Book Launch: The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen from Janet S. Fox at Through the Wardrobe. Peek: "I think one reason it took me such a long time, especially in the beginning, is that I was terrified of actually finally trying to write a novel. I kept expecting someone to come and stop me. And I often put it aside to work on other projects, or to figure out back-story, or various other things." See also Greg's recommendation of the novel. Peek: " exciting adventure and a great read, filled with treachery and mayhem, and with engaging and likeable characters." Read Cynsations interviews with Michelle and Janet.

Articles on Self-Publishing: The Need for Balance by Victoria Strauss from Writer Beware. Peek: "These hard facts are way less sexy than the vision of a brave new technological world that makes it possible for (a few) authors to bypass the traditional route to success--but they are no less real." Source: Janni Lee Simner.

Get Ready- For A Literary Agent from Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "The time to find a literary agent is when you are ready. That sounds so simple. It seems to go without saying. But nearly every failed agent/client relationship can be traced to that simple cause--the writer wasn't ready to sign with an agent. Any agent." See also The Myth of Querying Widely, Going on an Agent Hunt, and More Questions for Your Agent to Be or Not To Be.

Art for Art's Sake... Is Fine if You Don't Want to Be Paid from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: " shouldn't compare yourself to anyone who is doing something brilliantly unless you understand all the things they are doing brilliantly in it. Not sure you do?"

Interview with Deborah Taylor, Chair of ALA's Coretta Scott King Committee from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "Dr. King's vision included a path that acknowledged the work that needed to be done for getting there. We are on that path. The purpose of the award is to highlight the contributions of African Americans in literature for young people. This broadens the landscape for all readers to read and appreciate the works of these talented artists." Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of the Brown Bookshelf.

Interview with Alisa Libby from Becky's Book Reviews. Peek: "Catherine was a teenager and hadn’t been a member of the court for a year before she was wed to the powerful King Henry. But in spite of her naivety, she must have known that the king had already beheaded one of his former wives, Anne Boleyn, on charges of adultery—and Anne was Catherine's cousin. You would think that, knowing this, she would have been on her best behavior, regardless of her past indiscretions."

On writing verse novels by Lisa Schroeder at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I sat down to write, and what came out was sparse, poetic language. I had written three mid-grade novels prior to this one, and half of a young adult novel, all of them in prose. This verse stuff was all new territory." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

On Passive Writing by Dorothy Winsor from Kidlit Central News. Peek: " have to differentiate between passive voice, emphasis on action, and the delights of characters who shape situations rather than just respond to them."

An open letter to...people from Kidliterate because reading Children's Books Never Gets Old. Peek: "If you're not ashamed to admit you're watching 'Dancing with the Stars,' why should you be embarrassed to be seen reading The Dark Is Rising?" Source: Confessions of a Bibliovore.

Interview with Susane Colasanti from Katie's Book Blog. Peek: "In high school, it felt like I was always waiting for something to happen. I was waiting for a boy to fall in love with me, waiting for my real life to start, waiting for the bad times to finally come to an end. So I knew that I wanted to incorporate the sensation of endless waiting into my book."

Confess Your Biggest Screw Up! from K.L. Going. Win a $100 gift certificate to your local independent bookstore, Borders, or Barnes & Noble, plus a complete set of autographed K.L. Going YA books. Three runners-up will receive an autographed copy of King of the Screwups. Contest runs: April 1 to June 30 2009. Peek: "It's easy--we all make mistakes, sometimes big ones, sometimes small ones, sometimes hilarious ones (at least they're funny after the fact)." Send K.L. one paragraph or more describing your most heinous screw up. If she laughs hysterically or cries in sympathy, you just might be a winner! The time has come to spill your guts, so start typing." Read the first three chapters of K.L.'s new release, King of the Screw-ups Houghton Mifflin, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with K.L. Going.

Why Keep Blogging from Becky's Book Reviews. Peek: "So essentially, if you want to grow your blog, you've got to put some thought into it. Think about what your readers would like to see, hope to see."

What Josh Whedon Taught Me About Storytelling by Christine at Release the Magic. Peek: "Whedon gives us characters with whom we identify and grow to love deeply. Complex characters who don’t have a clear line of good and evil. Real people. His characters become real. Where else can a character introduced in Season 2 as the current 'big bad' come back season after season, becoming a love interest and ultimately saving the world?"

Check out this trailer for The ABCs of Writing for Children by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

There's Good News, and There's Good News. Which Do You Want First? from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "So You've Gotten a Bad Review. The Good News Is: Nobody cares. No, really. You're the only one."

Bonnie Adamson Illustration: the official site for the children's book illustrator. Bonnie's books include the four books of the "I Wish" series of bilingual picture books from Raven Tree Press: I Wish I Had Freckles Like Abby; I Wish I Had Glasses Like Rosa; I Wish I Was Strong Like Manuel; and I Wish I Was Tall Like Willie. Also featured: the three books of the Travels with Anna series, also from Raven Tree, and one title from Magination Press: Feeling Better: A Kid's Book About Therapy.

How can I become a children's book editor? from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "People who are a good fit for the job have been reading a lot of children's books (and a lot of different kinds of children's books), and have a lot to say about them."

Susan Patron: new official site from the Newbery-winning author. Peek: "I remember the exact moment when I decided I wanted to become a writer. Our fourth grade teacher had just finished reading Charlotte's Web aloud to the class. I was leaning my head on my arms, and by peeking to the side I could see that a lot of other people had their heads down, too. It is a very private and personal moment, when you hear about Charlotte's death; I didn't want anyone to see my face." Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

Pics [and Report] from TLA from YA author Varian Johnson. Highlighted authors include Sara Zarr, Chris Barton, and Wendy Lichtman. Read Cynsations interviews with Varian and Sara.

The Literal, Tedious Novel Draft from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: "A former student wrote to me saying she's bogged down in an early novel draft, can't seem to get past the middle, goes back to read what she's written and it feels clunky and awkward. The more she tries to push ahead, the weaker the writing gets." Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

Hardcover Deep Discount Clause (and part two) from David Lubar. Peek: "This works out to 17 cents a book. Which means that a ton of books were sold at an even deeper discount than 50%. (In the interest of full disclosure, the hardcover earned a bit more than twice that.)" Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Sources for Grant Money to Finance Author Visits from Jennifer Ward. Note: author-speakers are encouraged to feature this link. Event planners may want to bookmark it.

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen, 2009): a recommendation from Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: "Part action-adventure, part romance, Wondrous Strange is a thrilling, fun ride into a world of intrigue and dangerous bargains and where Celtic mythology (and Shakespeare's take on it) might be all too real."

Everyday Poetry: Audiovisual Poetry by Sylvia Vardell (Book Links, March 2009). Peek: "Would you like to introduce kids to the poets themselves? On YouTube you'll find speeches and readings by and interviews with Billy Collins, Pat Mora, Nikki Grimes, Naomi Shihab Nye, and an American Idol–style introduction of J. Patrick Lewis." Read a Cynsations interview with Sylvia.

Here's "For Mohammed Zeid, of Gaza, age 15" from Naomi:

and the introduction of J. Patrick:

Critique/Mentor Services

Lesléa Newman Critique Service. Lesléa is the author of 55 books for adults and children, including the YA novel Jailbait (Delacorte, 2005), the middle grade novels Hachiko Waits (Henry Holt, 2004) and Fat Chance (Putnam, 1996), and many picture books including The Boy Who Cried Fabulous (Trycle, 2004), A Fire Engine for Ruthie (Clarion, 2004), Skunk's Spring Surprise (Harcourt, 2006), and Heather Has Two Mommies (1990). She has made her living as a full-time writer since 1988. Her literary awards include creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, a Parents' Choice Silver Medal, a Children's Crown Honor, the Alabama Children's Choice Award, a James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, and a ASPCA Henry Bergh Honor. Currently she is the Poet Laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Lesléa has taught creative writing for over twenty years and has mentored hundreds of students. Most recently she was on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and a guest faculty member at Lesley University's Writing for Young People MFA program. She has led many writing workshops and retreats for SCBWI and Rowe Conference Center.

Lesléa says: "As your mentor, I will mark up your manuscript in purple ink and write you a long editorial letter. I look at the big picture (themes, plot, character development) and the small picture (is this the best word choice?). I am always available for email correspondence and pre-arranged phone meetings. And if your manuscript is ready, I am happy to advise you on how to get it published." Lesléa's fees vary, depending on the project. She usually charges $100 to critique a picture book and $2,000 to critique a 250-page novel. Fees are negotiable, depending on needs, the time she thinks it will take to critique your work, etc. Please visit: or write

Reminder: Bluebird Works Creative Consulting: author-editor Kara LaReau (formerly of Candlewick and Scholastic) offers a variety of creative services to authors, agents, and publishers. Peek: "Throughout my career, I've been dedicated to providing artists with the attention they and their books deserve. While I'm always honored and delighted to work with established artists, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to nurture and champion burgeoning talent. I enjoy collaborating with artists who are passionate about their work and about writing in general, who understand and appreciate the role of revision in the bookmaking process, and who possess an open mind, a good sense of humor, and a willingness to take risks."

More Personally

Congratulations to Greg Leitich Smith on the release of the Korean edition of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (DongSanSa, 2008)! Note: We just received the author copies. I love this cover. It really conveys the idea of three alternating narrators and the comedic feel of the story. It's also been suggested that Shohei looks like Greg and Elias looks like either Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Harry Potter.

Congratulations to Rebecca (green-and-white striped shirt) on her admission to The New School's MFA program! We'll miss you! Note: here, Rebecca stands between authors Debbie Gonzales and Thomas Pendleton AKA Dallas Reed. Author Anne Bustard is to the right. This photo was taken last fall at my Halloween party.

Congratulations to Sean Petrie (shown with his girlfriend Sara) on your admission to the joint MFA program in Writing and in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts! This photo was taken at a recent Austin Youth Lit Meet-Up at Waterloo Ice House North.

Even More Personally

I'm honored to report that 2009 nominees (PDF) for YALSA's Teens Top Ten include Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)! Voting will take place Oct. 18 to Oct. 24. Note: I'll offer more information about the award program and links to the other nominees in a post to follow.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a review from Kimberly J. Smith at Cool Kids Read. Peek: "A true page-turner, I can't imagine any fan of Gothic suspense/romance not thoroughly enjoying this--and not just YA readers either."

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a recommendation by Teen Reviewer Iulia G., age 17, from Teen Books (and beyond!) blog from the Palatine Public Library. Peek: "Regardless of your religious views, it's hard not to believe in angels after you read this novel."

Thanks to Jennifer Holm for letting me know that Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) is now available at SuperTarget. Note: given that I am known to walk into Target for, say, a bath mat and walk out with a full cart, this is especially satisfying. It's like The Great Circle of Shopping.

As readers of my YA Gothic fantasy series know, my shifters are inspired by the age of giant Ice Age mammals. For fans of Travis, the werearmadillo from Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), here's an article on the "Giant Armadilo" from the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Thanks also to Sara Shacter for letting me know that Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) is now available in paperback at Jewel grocery stores. Note: I used to shop at Jewel when I lived in Chicago. Perhaps I can see the book when I return for my visit this fall.

Extraordinary Authors from Carmen Oliver. Peek: "They [me and Kathi Appelt] reminisced about the first time the two of them met twelve or thirteen years ago at a writer's conference, and how that encounter has evolved into a friendship, a sister-like bond." Note: thanks to all who attended and blogged the event! I'll feature more links in my next round-up. See my report!

I'm thrilled to say that this week I received final art for Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010), and it's amazing--loud, funny, colorful, energetic, charming, warm, wow! I can't wait to share the cover art when it's available.

Thank you for your ongoing support of my Native-themed children's titles (Jingle Dancer (2000)(ages 4-up), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001)(ages 10-up), and Indian Shoes (2002)(ages 7-up), all HarperCollins) as well as the Santa Knows DVD production from Scholastic Book Club (ages 4-up) over the past several months! Note: of my Native-themed books, Jingle Dancer continues to be my best seller. I just heard this weekend that it's going into its 18th printing (the library edition is in its 10th!). Hooray!

Cynsations is going on a brief hiatus. I will resume blogging on April 27. Have a great week!