Friday, January 30, 2009

The Bradford Blog Bash Presents an Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith and a Tantalize Giveaway

Today I'm honored to be featured in an interview in conjunction with the Bradford Blog Bash in celebration of the release of GoldenGirl by Micol Ostow (Simon Pulse, Jan. 27, 2009).

Peek (on my favorite thing about blogging): "Being able to offer a most-days hearty dose of information and inspiration."

Plus, you are invited to comment to the post by midnight Thursday (Feb. 5), and you'll be entered in the random drawing to win a copy of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2008). Winner to be announced a week from today.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Reminder: enter to win one of four autographed advanced reader copies of Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 10, 2009)!

There are two ways to enter...

(a) email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address;

(b) message me at MySpace or Facebook, but don't send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook (I'll contact you for it if you win);

and in either case, type "Eternal" in the subject line and, in the body of the message, include your answers to at least three of the following questions about the excerpt of Eternal available from Candlewick Press:

(1) Can you guess who a couple of Miranda's favorite fantasy authors are?

(2) What furniture item in her room does she think may be possessed?

(3) When was Zachary created?

(4) What do people say about the old cemetery near the high school?

Deadline Feb. 5! All Cynsational readers are eligible to win! Note: there also will be a giveaway in conjunction with the release of the novel on Feb. 10!

More News & Giveaways

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan: now available online for a limited time from Penguin Young Readers Group. Peek: "Find out how the adventure begins - but hurry! Read book one of the New York Times best-selling Ranger's Apprentice series FREE for a limited time (1/15-2/15)!" From the promotional copy: "They have always scared him in the past--the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied...." Learn more about Ranger's Apprentice.

African-American Children's Book Project: an interview with Vanesse J. Lloyd-Sgambati by Kelly Starling Lyons at The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "The book project develops book tours, creates promotional events, serves as consultant to publishers/authors and corporate entities who are interested in literacy." See also an interview with Shadra Strickland, winner of the John Steptoe Award for New Talent by Don Tate at The Brown Bookshelf.

Marvelous Marketer - Lisa Schroeder from Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "I find it harder on Facebook to connect with people I don't know and get the word out about my books. On MySpace, I had no problems sending friend requests to teens I found on other author's pages and suggesting we be friends because we seem to like the same kind of books. But Facebook is more personal, and I think why people like it more, so I don't seek out people like I did on MySpace." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

"Sporty Girls" with Keri Mikulski: a chat transcript from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "Keri talks about writing sports fiction and nonfiction for books and magazines."

Scholarship Available for SCBWI Summer Conference: fAiRy gOdSisTeRs, iNk (FGI) announces its 2nd Annual SCBWI Summer Conference Scholarship! FGI is offering a $1500 scholarship for a SCBWI member to attend the August 2009 conference in Los Angeles. FGI awarded the 2008 scholarship to Linda Lodding of the Netherlands. To apply for the 2009 scholarship, submit a 250-word, double-spaced essay describing what you hope to accomplish by attending this year's summer conference. Send your essay to: fairygodsistersink@yahoo.com. The application deadline is April 15. The winner will be notified May 15. fAiRy gOdSiStErS, iNk. is a small, benevolent squadron of Santa Barbara children's book authors who believe in the magic of passing forward lucky breaks, bounty and beneficence, as so many have done for them.

Marvelous Marketers - Children's Book Editor Martha Mihalick (Greenwillow Books) from Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "...blogging or being active on Facebook or Twitter puts you in the public eye. Anyone can see what you write, so don’t forget that as you post—be aware that you are presenting yourself to potential readers, critics, editors, agents, and fellow writers."

Congratulations to Micol Ostow on the release of GoldenGirl: a Bradford Novel (Simon Pulse, Jan. 2009). Note: Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) is one of Madison's favorite books.



ALAN 2008 San Antonio: Suzanne Crowley offers a debut author's eye on the workshop. Peek: "I felt like I was at the equivalent of a Hollywood party filled with movie stars. When I came home to my hotel, I rode up the elevator with Laurie Halse Anderson, the highlight of my trip according to my middle daughter." Read a Cynsations interview with Suzanne.

Query Critiques from Nathan Bransford -- Literary Agent. Peek: "...while I think there's an interesting idea here, I found the setup confusingly described." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Enter to win books and more at the Simon Pulse Spring Fling Contest! Deadline: Feb. 14. Source: Elizabeth Scott.

Scholastic Book Fair features a video of Heather Brewer book talking The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod - Ninth Grade Slays. Peek: "In this thrilling sequel to Eighth Grade Bites‚ Vlad must confront secrets from the past and battle forces that once again threaten his life. Can he identify the slayer in time? Or for that matter‚ can you?" Check it out!

A Featured Local Author: Jennifer Ziegler by Madeline from BookKids at BookPeople of Austin. Peek: "'Either because of the universities or because it embraces musicians and artists, Austin tends to attract very open, creative, and spirited folks. People who are unapologetically themselves. Fascinating beings who belong in books.'" Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

Watch the Music Video and See What Austin Public Library Can Do For You from the APL. Note: Seriously, you have to check it out. I love this town!

Do You Want to Be in Tanya Lee Stone's Next Book?! Send Her Your Barbie Stories!: "this nonfiction book for middle-grade/YA will explore all that is Barbie and what she means to our culture. Please keep your stories to 150 words and under. Include your first name, age, and state or town/state." See more information. Deadline: Feb. 20. Read a Cynsations interview with Tanya.

Editorial Anonymous is now available through a LiveJournal syndication.

What to Do with an Upper Middle Grade Novel by Stephanie Greene from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "It's valuable for writers to know what some of the subjects are that might push their middle grade manuscript into the nebulous cross-over area. According to Karin Michels, Head of Youth Services at the Chapel Hill Library in North Carolina, it could be, 'Age of protagonist, explicit language, and a focus on sexuality.'"

Agent Interview: Elana Roth of Caren Johnson Literary from Alice Pope at Alice's CWIM Blog. Peek: "...I have a lot of YA right now, so I'd like more middle grade, but I'm not picky about genre when it comes to falling in love."

Check out a video featuring author Danette Haworth discussing Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning from Scholastic Book Fair.

First in Series Contest from Terri Clark: a contest with the first books in some of her favorite YA series. Featured titles: "Marked – House of Night Series – P.C. and Kristin Cast; Prom Dates from Hell – Maggie Quinn Series – Rosemary Clement Moore; Dead is the New Black – Nightshade series - Marlene Perez. Peek: "To enter please leave a comment telling me why you like (or don’t like) series and what your favorite series is." Deadline: Feb. 13. Learn more about Terri Clark.

More Personally

I will be appearing at Book Roast to discuss Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) on Feb. 19. Please plan to stop by, and don't miss my other upcoming events (listed below)!

Speaking of Eternal, I also was delighted to hear that Walmart will be carrying the hardcover release. I know many of my readers--especially those in small towns, many of them without another bookseller--discovered Tantalize (Candlewick, 2008) in paperback at the chain, and I'm glad that they'll have immediate access to the companion novel.

Attention MySpacers, check out this new reader page celebrating my Gothic fantasy books and see the "support" icon immediately below!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Reminders

Enter to Win an ARC of Geektastic, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, August 2009). Peek: Miss Cecil says: "It has stories from all our favorite geeks: Kelly Link, M. T. Anderson, Garth Nix, Liz Brazwell, John Green, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Lisa Yee, Barry Lyga and Sara Zarr with comics written by [Cecil and Holly] and illustrated by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley." Talk 'bout geektastic company!" To enter: "Make us a geeky icon that screams geektastic! Or an icon for any one of the authors in the anthology. Or for [Cecil] or Holly." See details from Cecil! See details from Holly! Winner announced Feb. 1.

Enter to Win one of 10 Copies of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, 2008) from Teen Libris. Peek: "...we're giving away ten copies to bring some heat to the middle of your winter. (Not body heat, obviously, because-- vampires!)." Immortal features my short story, "Haunted Love." Deadline: Feb. 10.

28 Days Later, 2009: a Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story: check out the amazing authors and illustrators to be featured in the Brown Bookshelf's latest awareness-raising campaign. Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of the Brown Bookshelf.

Events

Join readergirlz's own Justina Chen Headley for the release of North of Beautiful (Little Brown, 2009) at 3 p.m. Feb. 1 at Barnes & Noble (626 106th Ave.) in Bellevue, Washington. Don't miss the "Find Beauty Challenge," wherein you're invited to submit a 90-second video of what you find truly beautiful and thereby qualify to win an iPod. Justina also will donate $10 (up to $1,000) "to help kids with cleft lips in third-world countries."

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will be speaking on "First Drafts" at the February monthly meeting of the Writers' League of Texas at 7:30 Feb. 19 at the League office in Austin (611 S. Congress Avenue). Peek: "Sometimes getting that first draft down is the biggest hurdle to bringing a great idea to literary life. Find out how several authors approach the first draft." Note: "Before the program, join us at Doc's Motorworks Bar & Grill, 1123 S. Congress (two blocks south of the WLT office for a 'Mixand Mingle Happy Hour.'"

"The Profit, Pleasures and Pitfalls of Author Visits to Schools" with author-illustrator Mark Mitchell will be at 11 a.m. Feb. 21 at BookPeople in Austin. "For published authors of children's books, school visits can make a lot of sense. They're a terrific way to connect with your market and, if done right, a revenue source for an author. The machinery of 'school tours' contains many moving parts: organization, 'market positioning,' salesmanship, public relations, communication, technology, travel, book sales, book-keeping and more. Mark will discuss [how to frame a business model that works] and will help to grow your success as an author. He'll also touch on crafting a performance that speaks to the kids, and connects with them." The event is sponsored by Austin SCBWI.

"Mark's Raising La Belle (Eakin, 2002), about a 312 year old Texas shipwreck won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America (for best juvenile nonfiction book) and the United States Maritime Literature Award. In 2006, he began touring schools with his Raising La Belle presentation. Since then he has visited 83 schools around the state and received many rave reviews from librarians, teachers, and students."

Due to a technical difficulty, Cynthia's discussion of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and related forthcoming books on the teen grid of Teen Second at Second Life has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 24. See more information.

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.

The First Annual African American Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference will take place on April 25. The conference will be held at the Hilton Charlotte University Place, in Charlotte North Carolina. Speakers will include: editor Sarah Ketchersid; editor Eileen Robinson; author Eleanora E. Tate; author-illustrator Don Tate; author Christine Taylor Butler; author Jacquelin Thomas; author Kelly Starling Lyons; and author Christine Young-Robinson.

Cynthia will visit the YA book club at the Cedar Park (Texas) Public Library at 11 a.m. May 30.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: ARC Giveaway

Enter to win one of four autographed advanced reader copies of Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 10, 2009)!

At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high-school theater wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.

Meanwhile, her reckless and adoring guardian angel, Zachary, demoted to human guise as the princess's personal assistant, has his work cut out for him trying to save his girl’s soul and plan the Master’s fast-approaching Death Day gala.

In alternating points of view, Miranda and Zachary navigate a cut-throat eternal aristocracy as they play out a dangerous and darkly hilarious love story for the ages.

With diabolical wit, the author of Tantalize revisits a deliciously dark world where vampires vie with angels — and girls just want to have fangs.


Read an excerpt from Candlewick Press.

There are two ways to enter...

(a) email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address;

(b) message me at MySpace or Facebook, but don't send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook (I'll contact you for it if you win);

and in either case, type "Eternal" in the subject line and, in the body of the message, include your answers to at least three of the following questions about the excerpt of Eternal available from Candlewick Press:

(1) Can you guess who a couple of Miranda's favorite fantasy authors are?

(2) What furniture item in her room does she think may be possessed?

(3) When was Zachary created?

(4) What do people say about the old cemetery near the high school?

Deadline Feb. 5! All Cynsational readers are eligible to win! Note: there also will be a giveaway in conjunction with the release of the novel on Feb. 10!

Eternal and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) are set in the same universe, but feature different main characters. The two casts will crossover in Blessed, which is in progress now. A graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize from Kieren's point of view also is in the works.

Learn more about Eternal, check out the Eternal Readers' Guide (spoiler warning!). For those on MySpace, see my page, Tantalize Fans Unite! (a discussion group), and reader-originated character pages for Tantalize characters Quincie, Kieren, Ruby, and Brad, and the latest reader-originated page Tastefully Tantalizing.


For more widgets please visit www.yourminis.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Author Update: Tanya Lee Stone

You last visited Cynsations in June 2007! What's new in your writing life since?

Well, I started teaching Writing for Children at Champlain College, and I love it. The students are all writing majors this semester. They're smart, motivated, and so interesting.

And I think I'm doing my job reasonably well--by mid-terms they have gone from thinking that writing picture books might not be very hard to thinking it's one of the hardest forms there is!

Congratulations on the release of Sandy's Circus, illustrated by Boris Kulikov (Viking, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

The book begins by showing a bit about how Alexander (a.k.a. Sandy) came to be an artist, and then the bulk of the story shines the spotlight on his first major piece of work in the 1920s called the Cirque de Calder and how it blew the art world away.

The Cirque de Calder is this incredibly whimsical, imaginative tiny circus that Calder made completely of found materials such as wire, cork, leather, wood, etc.. He was a big bear of a man, and the figures were quite small, and the whole circus was a performance put on by him. He would get down on his hands and knees and set everything in motion for his audience. Many of the pieces moved with clever levers and springs and such.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

My dad and sister (who is now an artist and art teacher) were always taking me to museums, but I must confess it wasn't my favorite destination--until they showed me Calder sculptures and mobiles. That made a big impact on me and directly influenced my love of sculpture today.

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

There are two timelines worth mentioning. The first is from spark to finished manuscript. That took a few years. But once I figured out how to rewrite my beginning, I was good to go.

Then it was rejected a few times. Rejection is a necessary part of revision most of the time, but with this particular story, I somehow felt sure that I was going to find an editor who liked it.

Second timeline. Enter the editor who liked it! I was working on my first book with Viking (Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald (Viking, 2008)) and getting to know the wonderful Catherine Frank, my Viking editor.

I don't recall exactly what sparked my mentioning the story to her, but I did, and she asked to see it. She bought it soon thereafter, Boris Kulikov quickly got on board as the illustrator, and we had a book one year later! Lightning struck!

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

Every picture book biography has the built-in challenge of figuring out how to capture the essence of a person in under 1,000 words. What moment or aspect of someone's life does a writer want to focus on?

Another challenge with Calder was how to contain such an enormous spirit in one story. The circus was the key to all of that for me, because it captures how important "play" was to him.

I hope kids will see that their play matters, too, and that it can help them find their passions, lead them where they want to go.

What did Boris Kulikov's art bring to your text?

Oh my goodness, I can't begin to tell you how incredible his art is. I cannot imagine a better match for this text. His art is nothing less than spectacular, and he brought his own vision to the book, adding the perfect details and creating something I want to look at over and over and over again. He is so talented and has really outdone himself with this art--so much so that the usual 32 pages turned into 40! Honestly, I don't have enough space to tell you how fantastic the art is in this book. You'll all have to see for yourselves!

I would like to mention, though, that one particularly nice thing about the process was that we were put in touch with each other to collaborate as needed. I was able to get him photographic material documenting Calder's life and art. We are both people who play well with others, so it was a fun experience on top of everything else!

This spring you published another picture book biography: Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and The Right to Vote, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Henry Holt, 2008). Who was Elizabeth, and what about her fascinated you?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first person to stand up and say that it wasn't right for women not to be allowed to vote. She was responsible for the first Seneca Falls Convention.

In addition to her bravery and brains, what fascinated me about her was that nine out of ten people I asked didn't know who she was! I felt compelled to do something about that, frankly.

What advice do you have for those writing picture book biographies?

I write to learn--about concrete things such as "Who was Elizabeth Cady Stanton?"--but also to figure out how I feel and what I think about the things I'm learning. I think if a writer stays focused as much on why he or she is driven to write about a subject as the topic itself, the outcome will be infused with both a unique perspective and the writer's passion for the topic. To me, that's what goes into most of the picture book biographies I want to read.

Speaking of great ladies, in January, you also published a YA biography, Up Close: Ella Fitzgerald (Viking, 2008). Why Ella?

Well, for one, I'm a singer and I was raised, in part, on Ella. For another, boy, you'd be hard-pressed to name many other women who were as driven, passionate, and as intensely private as Ella.

Although her music was in my bones, her life was somewhat of a mystery to me. I wanted to understand more about her and share what I learned.

What were the challenges in bringing her story to teenagers?

The challenges with that story mainly had to do with tracking down the truth. There have been many, many perpetuated half-truths and myths about her. Some of them were generated by Ella herself, in an attempt to sugar coat what was a pretty tough childhood and young adulthood.

Others were manufactured by the media and then repeated in future articles and books. Deciphering what was fact and what was fiction took some detective work.

Thankfully, I was able to enlist the help of a jazz historian named Stuart Nicholson who wrote the definitive scholarly adult biography of Ella.

Looking over your bibliography, it seems to me that your fascinated by strong women. Am I right, and if so, why do you make a particular effort to speak to this theme in your own body of literature?

You are right, but I can't claim to have set out to do so with direct intent. Instead, my title list does reflect my interests and attractions.

I am drawn to stories about strong women or empowering young women. Perhaps it is because I feel strong myself or because I have a strong-spirited daughter or because vulnerability in girls is a trigger for me.

I want to help prepare them for a world that will challenge them every step of the way, but I want to do that in a hopeful way. In a way that will make them see they don't need to be afraid but can in fact embrace those challenges and stand up for what they believe.

I'm not a cynical person so, perhaps quite simply, it makes me happy to share the stories of these historic strong women with young people, both girls and boys.

You are published in young adult fiction, non-fiction, and picture books. As someone who's likewise publishing across genres, I'm occasionally advised to narrow my "brand." Have you encountered such pressure?

In a word: yes. But mostly in the past. I didn't listen then, and I don't get that advice much anymore.

Yet as you pointed out, in a way I have unintentionally developed my "brand" as a fairly identifiable one, since I write about strong women and girls across genres.

In either case, what is your take on writing in a diversity of forms to a wide range of young readers?

I write about whatever is tugging at me, regardless of form. I sometimes play with form to shake things up in my brain, even if the end form changes to something else.

I wrote and rewrote Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream (Candlewick, 2009) several times over--as a picture book, in poetry, in poetry and prose, and finally as prose for middle-grade and up.

If you could go back in time and talk to your beginning-writer self, what would you say?

Two things:

1) Did you really submit those awful picture book manuscripts?

2) Don't worry, you'll get better if you work hard enough.

So far, as a reader, what are your favorite children's-YA books of 2008 and why?

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion, 2008), Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster, 2008), and Impossible by Nancy Werlin (Dial, 2008).

E. hit every note perfectly, gave us a fantastic character, a satisfying ending, and tucked a lot of philosophical and intellectual gems between the covers.

Chains grabbed me on the first page and didn't let me go until the last. I did nothing but read it from the minute I started it. I didn't break for food or sleep. What more can one say?

And reading Impossible was thrilling for many reasons, only one of which was that I had been privileged to have heard pieces of it in progress. So being able to finally sit down and read the whole thing from start to finish was fantastic. I couldn't stop reading this one either and it is classic Werlin: intelligent and intense!

What can your readers look forward to next?

Well, in February I have two books coming out. One is my third book for the DK Bio series: Laura Ingalls Wilder (DK, 2009). That same month, I have a big nonfiction book for older readers coming out that I have been working on for several years.

It's called Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream (Candlewick, 2009) and is about the 13 female pilots who, in 1961, took all of the same testing as our first astronauts (Mercury 7).

Although they excelled, and, in some cases, did even better than the men, NASA was not ready to allow women into the space program.

This is a fascinating story of a little-known episode in history that includes a Congressional hearing and some big-time American heroes behaving badly.

It includes a shocking comment that Lyndon B. Johnson made to the heroine of this story, Jerrie Cobb, which captures the essence of what these "Mercury 13" ladies were up against. But you'll have to wait until February 9 to find out!

I'm also working on two new books. One is a picture book about Elizabeth Blackwell called Open the Doors (Henry Holt, 2010), and she was the first female doctor in America. The other is my next nonfiction book for older readers, and it is about the history of the Barbie doll and girl culture in America. It's called Barbie: For Better, For Worse (Viking, 2010).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

American-Statesman Features Author Betty X. Davis: An Inspiration at Age 93

Today it's my pleasure to share with you a new article and video interview from the Austin American-Statesman featuring one of my writer heroes, Betty X. Davis. Those of you who follow the blog regularly may remember that she was one of the participants in last summer's Awesome Austin Writers' Workshop.

At 93, aspiring writer awaits her big break by Ricardo Gándara from the American-Statesman. Peek: "'This is arrogance, but I have words that people might like to read,'" she says. "'I have this desire to get the words out and see them in print.'" See also a sample of Betty's work. (If you can't get logged onto the site, just watch the video below).



Here's Betty last summer with Alison Dellenbaugh, Erin Edwards, and Phil Yates, getting ready for the next manuscript critique.



And here's Betty, enjoying some hard-earned down time with Alison and Mark G. Mitchell.

Author Feature: Sarah Mlynowski

Learn more about Sarah Mlynowski.

What were you like as a young reader?

I read everything I could get my hands on. I was particularly obsessed with Judy Blume, Gordon Korman, Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan.

Why do you write for young adults today?

I want to be part of the experience when a teenager first falls in love with reading, the way I did when I first lost myself in novels.

What about young fictional heroes appeals to you as a writer?

I love coming-of-age stories, and no matter what the plot is, most YA stories are essentially coming-of-age stories at heart.

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

The first novel I ever wrote was called "Lizzie Forshort." I was nine. My mother typed it up and sent to Bantam Books. That's the story of my first rejection letter.

Then my short stories were rejected from a whole lot of magazines. I knew I wanted to write YA, but I decided I'd write my novel "later" and get a job in publishing.

I started working for Harlequin (in the marketing department—I got to come up with cover ideas for books such as The Virgin Bride Said "Wow!" [by Cathy Gillen Thacker (Harlequin American Romance #870, 2001)]) and heard through the grapevine that they were going to start a new line of books called Red Dress Ink, which would be a chick lit line.

At the same time, I had become obsessed with British chick lit – Helen Fielding, Isabel Wolff, Jenny Colgan, Lisa Jewell.

I decided to go for it. I wrote a proposal and three chapters and brought it to one of the line’s editors. She liked it, gave me advice and told me to keep going.

Trying to write an entire novel was definitely intimidating, but I set small goals so I didn’t get overwhelmed. When I finished the manuscript she bought it, and my first novel was published in December 2001.

After that, I was given a multi-book contract, and even though I loved my marketing job, I loved writing more, so I left to be a full-time novelist.

I decided I would try writing my YA novel. I found an agent (Laura Dail) and sent her my proposal for Bras & Broomsticks (2005). Random House/Delacorte bought it.

I love the fact that Random House now owns Bantam Books—the people who sent me my first rejection letter. It all worked out.

Looking back on your apprenticeship as a writer, is there anything you wish you'd done differently? If so, what and why?

I would tell myself to outline. I did not outline my first book Milkrun (Red Dress Ink, 2001), and it was harder to write because I had no idea where I was going.

I started outlining with my second book and I still outline everything before I start a draft. I'd also tell myself to get an agent right from the start. I only found Laura for my fourth book, and I wish I'd had someone looking out for me from the beginning.

On the flip side, what was most helpful to you in terms of developing your craft?

Reading everything: mysteries, thrillers, classics, romance, chick lit, teen lit…then striving to write the kinds of books I like to read.

In a way, I'm always my target reader. If I can't make myself laugh, I won't be able to make anyone else laugh. I've taken a few creative writing classes and workshops, but I have to say, I've learned a lot more from exchanging manuscripts with a few trusted author friends. I've also been lucky and had fantastic, brilliant editors who've taught me a ton.

Could you please update us on your YA back list?

I'd be happy to. There are the four Magic in Manhattan books: Bras & Broomsticks, Frogs & French Kisses (2006), Spells & Sleeping Bags (2007) and Parties & Potions (2008). And How to Be Bad (HarperCollins, 2008), the novel I co-wrote with Lauren Myracle and E. Lockhart.

I've also contributed short stories and novellas to Sixteen: Stories About that Sweet and Bitter Birthday, edited by Megan McCafferty (Three Rivers, 2004), 21 Proms, edited by David Levithan and Daniel Ehrenhaft (Scholastic, 2007), and Fireworks: Four Summer Stories (Scholastic, 2007).

Congratulations on Parties & Potions (Delacorte, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

It's the fourth book in the Magic in Manhattan series.

Rachel and her sister Miri are both debuting at a magical party called a Samsorta, which is a debutante ball for witches. And there will be boys at the ball: cute, charming, witch boys.

Of course, Rachel is still madly in love with her boyfriend Raf…but Raf doesn’t know her big, witchy secret. And she can never tell him. Or can she?

Both from a craft and publishing perspective, how did this series evolve? Did you know there would be multiple books going in?

I sold Bras & Broomsticks and Frogs & French Kisses together back in 2004. I had the idea for Spells & Sleeping Bags (I wanted Rachel to get her powers and for them to kick in and be out of control at sleepaway camp).

Spells was supposed to be the last one, but then Random House asked if I would do one more…and I was thrilled to. I missed my witch girls!

What have been the series challenges? What have you loved about it?

Remembering back-story details four years later is definitely a challenge. When you're writing a stand-alone all the particulars are right there in your document. When you're writing the fourth book in a series five years after you've finished the first one, you tend to make mistakes on some of the smaller details…like the dad's name.

On the other hand, I love that the rules of the characters and the world are already created. That gives me the freedom to really focus on the story and the plot—my favorites.

Congratulations on the publication of How To Be Bad, co-authored by E. Lockhart and Lauren Myracle (HarperTeen, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the story?

Vicks is the wild child whose boyfriend has gone suspiciously quiet since he left for college; Mel is the newcomer desperate to be liked; and Jesse will do anything to avoid revealing a life-altering secret.

Each has her own reason for wanting to get the heck out of their nowheresville town, even just for the weekend. So they climb into Jesse's mom's beat-up station wagon and head south.

Hearts are broken, friendships are tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger changes the course of everything…

What was the initial inspiration for writing this book?

MySpace! Really. I had started a MySpace group for people who loved YA lit. Emily and Lauren were on it. I asked, "What's everybody reading these days?"

Emily responded that she'd just finished reading Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (Random House, 2006), and Lauren wrote: "That one's in my stack—I'm eager to read it. In fact, I really want to write a collaborative novel one day."

As soon as I saw those posts I knew that I had to be the one to collaborate with her.

And then Emily posted: "Lauren, anytime baby; say the word," and I began screaming, "Me, too! Me, too!" to my computer screen.

I e-mailed Emily and then she e-mailed Lauren, and off we went.

What advice would you give to writers embarking on a joint manuscript?

Take the opportunity to learn from each other. Know that you don't have to be an expert in everything—let yourself be edited.

Lauren is a character and motivation expert, and Emily is the queen of dialogue and language. Letting them edit my chapters was terrifying but eye-opening and incredibly helpful.

I also had to learn not to afraid of jumping in and using the red pen on their chapters when they needed to be edited.

I'm a big fan of the delete button and learned to trust my gut and not be too intimidated to write boring in big letters on one of their paragraphs. Although I usually added a much love afterward.

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

Write one page a day. Before you know it you'll have a finished book. Read often, and read everything. Then write the kind of book you want to read.

You also write books for grown-ups. What do you see as the differences between writing books for the YA and for the adult market respectively?

Finding the balance between reflecting reality and creating reality is trickier when writing for teens. Take labels for example--I sprinkle them liberally into my adult fiction for realism, but I'm far more careful in my teen books. I feel more pressure in terms of my own responsibility as a writer since a fourteen-year-old is far more impressionable than a twenty-four-year-old.

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

I love speaking and promoting. I love writing, but I hate being by myself all day. I love the interaction of touring and meeting readers. I also used to be in marketing so I try to apply what I learned to my own books. I probably spend about sixty-five percent on writing and, um, sixty-five percent on all the rest. (Balance? What's that?)

As a reader, what were your favorite YA books of 2008?

I loved Bliss by Lauren Myracle (Abrams). I loved The Disreputable History of Franky-Landau Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion). I loved Before I Die by Jenny Downham (David Fickling, 2007).

What do you do outside the world of books?

There's a world outside of books? When I’m not writing, I'm usually reading.

I do watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV. I really love my TV. Especially "Law & Order."

My husband and I used to travel a lot, but at the moment I'm eight months pregnant and housebound. I'm trying to read books on what to do once Baby arrives.

(I guess that still falls under the world of books, eh?)

What can your fans look forward to next?

Gimme a Call—my new novel about a high school freshman who finds a magical cell phone and calls herself in the future as a senior. It should be coming out summer 2010.

Cynsational Notes

Learn more about Sarah via her ongoing blog tour at Teen Book Review (1/14/09), The Well-Read Child (1/15/09), Shopping Diary (1/16/09); The Page Flipper (1/20/09), E. Lockhart (1/21/09), Bildungsroman (1/22/09), YA Books Central (1/23/09), Ally's Blog (1/26/09), and Random Buzzers (1/28-2/6/09).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cynsational News, Giveaways, and ALA Awards

Welcome back to Cynsations!

My winter hiatus has concluded, and it's a great day for children's-YA literature!

Congratulations also to all of the newly announced ALA winners and honorees!

I'll leave the details and dissections to those fine folks who aren't digging out of an email avalanche from spending much of this month teaching and go with the big picture.

Highlights included a few personal favorites (per Greg, per child_lit):

Newbery Honor: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small (Atheneum)(author interview);

King Author Honor Book: Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Wordsong)(author interview);

Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production: Recorded Books, producer of the audiobook The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, written/narrated by Sherman Alexie;

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults: Laurie Halse Anderson;

William C. Morris Award: A Curse Dark as Gold written by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Arthur A. Levine);

Printz Honor Book: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick)(author interview) and Printz Honor Book: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion)(author interview);

Belpré Honor and Illustrator Honor Book: The Storyteller's Candle / La velita de los cuentos, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, written by Lucía González (Children's Book Press)(author-illustrator interview);

Belpré Illustrator Award: Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Neil Porter/Roaring Brook)(illustrator interview).

Read Cynsations interviews with the following award-winners: Carole,* M. T. ("Tobin"), E. (Emily), Lulu,* Lucía,* Yuyi, and Kathi.*

*interview focuses specifically on the aforementioned award-winning book.

More News & Giveaways

Enter to Win an ARC of Geektastic, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, August 2009). Peek: Miss Cecil says: "It has stories from all our favorite geeks: Kelly Link, M. T. Anderson, Garth Nix, Liz Brazwell, John Green, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Lisa Yee, Barry Lyga and Sara Zarr with comics written by [Cecil and Holly] and illustrated by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O'Malley." Talk 'bout geektastic company!" To enter: "Make us a geeky icon that screams geektastic! Or an icon for any one of the authors in the anthology. Or for [Cecil] or Holly." See details from Cecil! See details from Holly! Winner announced Feb. 1.

Cheers to Laurie Halse Anderson, whose Chains (Simon & Schuster) has won the 2009 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Interview with Simon Pulse Editor Michael del Rosario by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "Not in any particular order, the things that draw me to a manuscript would be: Humor, originality, an authentic voice, quirk, passion, flow, edge, and of course good writing."

I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "One of the most surprising discoveries young publishing professionals make upon finding a chair on this side of the desk is how many well-known, well-respected authors are totally incapable of telling when they've written something good and marketable, and when they really, really haven't."

Enter to Win one of 10 Copies of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, 2008) from Teen Libris. Peek: "...we're giving away ten copies to bring some heat to the middle of your winter. (Not body heat, obviously, because-- vampires!)." Immortal features my short story, "Haunted Love." Deadline: Feb. 10.

Roxburgh Launches New Venture by Lynn Andriani from Publishers' Weekly. Peek: "Namelos will develop children's books independently with authors and artists and place them with agents, editors and publishers. The firm will also work with publishers on projects that need outside development."

2009 Texas Book Festival Writing Contest: Texas junior high and high school students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length, to be judged by Texas authors, some of whom will appear at the 2009 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Entries should focus on the theme, 'In My Own Backyard.' Judges will look for excellence in use of dialogue, imagery, character development, setting, plot, conflict and resolution. Submitted entries will be submitted in three divisions—Grades 7-8; Grades 9-10; Grades 11-12. Authors will enter the division for which they were a student during the 2008-09 school year. Schools are limited to three entries per division. There is no entry fee. Entries must be double-spaced and faxed to the Texas Book Festival office at 512.322.0722 no later than July 1. Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place finishers per division. First place winners will be invited to Austin to receive an award and to read their works during the 2009 Texas Book Festival. Their winning entries will also be published on the Texas Book Festival Web site. See entry form.

28 Days Later, 2009: a Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story: check out the amazing authors and illustrators to be featured in the Brown Bookshelf's latest awareness-raising campaign. Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of the Brown Bookshelf.

Action Alert: Please Call the Consumer Product Safety Commission from the American Library Association. Peek: "Making these [lead] testing regulations retroactive would require both school and public libraries to take drastic steps to come into compliance. They either would have to ban children from their libraries or pull every book intended for children under the age of 12 from their bookshelves at the time children are fostering a lifelong love of learning and reading."

Subplots: a call for discussion by P. J. Hoover at Roots in Myth. Peek: "I'm sure we can all pull out the old Harry Potter example and say, 'Look at all the masterful subplots J. K. Rowling managed so well in Harry Potter.' But in all seriousness, who cares if the house elves have hats knitted for them (HP5)?" Note: don't miss the comments. Read a Cynsations interview with P. J.

BronzeWord's Blog: offers writers information on publishing news, especially that with an impact on Latinos/as, Latino/a book awards, Latino/a author's new releases, agents and editors views and needs, writing techniques, contests guidelines, and conference information and marketing and promotional strategies. Articles feature writing news and inspiration. Guest bloggers are invited to submit articles in categories pertinent to publishing. Guest bloggers are welcome to announce new services or opportunities for Latino/a authors and writers. New writers are invited to ask questions, seek guidance, and announce their victories, no matter how small or how big. Teens are invited to comment, ask questions, and be published. (They can post poetry and short stories.) Published authors may talk about their experience, their marketing plans, ask for helping in getting word out on their books, etc. The goal is to provide the one place any Latino/a can come to for full coverage of the Latino/a book world and publishing industry. Soon books will be given away. Note: BronzeWord's Blog is run by Jo Ann Hernandez. Her books, The Throwaway Piece (Arte Público, 2007) won first place and White Bread Competition (Arte Público, 1997) won second place at the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize contest at the University of California, Irvine.

Spicy Reads: Ed Spicer's Teen Book Reviews.

78th Annual Writers Digest Writing Competition
: enter in the children's/young adult division for a chance at the grand prize--$3,000 cash and a trip to New York City to meet with editors or agents. Deadline: May 15. Late entry deadline: June 1 (add $5 to entry fee). See more information.

Tea Shop Girl's Blog from Laura Schaefer. Peek: "Laura loves to write almost as much as she likes to drink tea. She got her start as a contributor to the University of Wisconsin's student paper The Daily Cardinal and went on to write regularly for The Princeton Review and Match.com. Laura is the author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005) [and The Teashop Girls (Paula Wiseman Books, 2009). "

IllustratorAuthor.com: site to debut Feb. 1. School administrators who want to pay an illustrator or author to speak at their school will be able to search for information in several ways: by state, region, the type of book (children's, non-fiction, young adult, etc.), and can access more information from there. Page listings will include: synopsis of professional history, accomplishments, and reviews; information about speaking fees and requirements; a picture; a link to a list of publications; a link to an email address or website to use for contact. A discount is being offered to anyone who registers before Feb. 1. The regular fee is $59 annually, but those who register before Feb. 1 will be given an 18-month listing for $49. For more information, contact, illustratorauthor@gmail.com. Payment is accepted via PayPal, cash, check, or money order.

Working in Children's Books and the Recession of 2008-09 by Harold Underdown at The Purple Crayon. Peek: "What should you do, if you write or illustrate or edit or design or do any of the other jobs that keep our business running?" Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Listen to a song by Ray Benson, celebrating Nacho the Party Puppy by Emma Virjan (Random House, 2008).

A Potter Week and Thoughts on Setting by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "I'd forgotten just how much Hogwarts is almost a character itself. In the books, Hogwarts is of course more than merely backdrop -- being there over the school year drives some (much?) of the personal dynamic and fleshes out the conflicts with Snape and Malfoy and other students and faculty."

Don't discount the Newbery: Children's books that deal seriously with serious issues can change readers' lives by Susan Patron from the Los Angeles Times. Peek: "Looking back now, I see that some of the themes in those years included war, being torn from your family during an invasion, physical disability, losing a beloved dog. I'm grateful my librarian didn't determine that those award books were inaccessible and too complicated, or that they dealt with inappropriate social issues. I'm glad I got to pick the ones I wanted to read." Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

Publicist Interview: Jennifer Taber of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "Authors can do themselves a great service by educating themselves about the current state of publishing and by communicating with their publicist about plans and goals."

The Justified Line: Copyediting and manuscript evaluation services. Peek: "Welcome to the editorial services website of author Stacy DeKeyser. I have over 12 years of experience writing, critiquing, and copyediting both fiction and nonfiction for adults and children. I've taught workshops on submitting your work to publishers. I've worked with a number of different publishers, and I'm represented by one of the best agencies out there, so I have a pretty good idea of how editors and agents work."

Social Networking Guilt: Get Over It by Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "Creative purists who scoff at social networks as a time-waster need to remember that a writer is only half the dialectic in this business. The other half is made up of readers, and these days young adults make calendaring and purchasing decisions via social networks." Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

"Kids made this incredible art [below] after hearing author Tanya Lee Stone read her picture book about Alexander Calder's circus made of found materials. The artist's Cirque de Calder is on exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Stone's picture book about Calder and his circus is called Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder. Illustrations in the book by Boris Kulikov. Published by Viking Children's Books. (c) 2008."



The Horn Book Acquired by Parent of Junior Library Guild from The Horn Book. Peek: "Media Source, Inc., is announcing its acquisition of the Boston-based children’s literature company, The Horn Book, Inc., publisher of The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide." Note: If Roger is good with it, I'm good with it. Read a Cynsations interview with Roger Sutton.

Toe to Toe with Jen Bradbury: an interview with author Jennifer Bradbury by Daphne Grab from The Longstockings. A chatty, informal Q-and-A. Peek: "I make really good curry." Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

More Personally

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a recommendation by Mandy from Nocturnal Reviews. Peek: "Tantalize was just wow... I couldn't stop reading it. I put aside schoolwork, saying I'd stop reading in another hour. But I kept reading and reading. Just like it's name, I was definitely tantalized with every chapter, craving for more. I regret not reading this sooner!" Note: Mandy mentions a strong desire for a sequel, and there is more to come. Eternal, which will be released Feb. 10 in the U.S., is set in the same universe but features different main character. Then the two casts will crossover in a third novel, Blessed, which picks up with Quincie where Tantalize leaves off. There's also a graphic novel adaptation of Tantalize (from Kieren's POV) in the works! Stay tuned to Cynsations for more news!

As an author who's new to seeing her books reach readers overseas, it was a thrill to see this announcement by Janet Tansley in the Liverpool Echo about Tantalize. On a related note, Tantalize will be published in France by Editions Intervista in April 2010.

I'm pleased to announce that Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) is going into another printing. Rain is very much the kind of quiet, sometimes humorous, multicultural novel that is dependent on individual champions and word-of-mouth support. Of all my books, it's also the one that's generated--not the most mail, but the most personal mail. Letters from thoughtful tweens, facing grief and/or seeking a greater understanding and validation of their mixed-race identities. Thanks to all of you for your continued enthusiasm. It's deeply appreciated.

The many highlights of the winter residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts included the inauguration of a new president of the United States. For my U.S. readers, whatever our individual political affiliations, this is certainly a time of change, a landmark moment. Please enjoy this poem, "American Baptism" (below) by Carole Boston Weatherford, and see also a Cynsations interview with Carole.



See also Civil Rights: Is There More to the Story? from Shana Burg. Peek: "When Professor Ruben Flores told me about his research looking at the similarities between the fight for Mexican American civil rights and African American civil rights, I knew I had to interview him for my blog. Here's our conversation..." Read a Cynsations interview with Shana.

Congratulations to the Vermont College of Fine Arts graduating class of January 2009! And here's one more cheer for VCFA faculty member and Newbery Honor author Kathi Appelt and VCFA Board of Trustees member and Printz Honor author M. T. "Tobin" Anderson!

And as if all that weren't lovely enough, Carrie Jones loves me. Yay! P.S. Laughed out loud at David Lubar's comment. I also thoroughly enjoyed Lisa Yee's How Not to Get an Agent, featuring the irrepressible Peepy and my own fabulous agent, Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown.

Events

YA Author Margo Rabb will be performing at five-minute monologue on Friday at Five Things in Austin. Peek: "The subject is women talking about men and their various grooming/icky habits. I'll be talking about one of the worst jobs I ever had, cleaning men’s bathrooms." Note: this is not a book event, but rather one that features an author. Read a Cynsations interview with Margo.

Join readergirlz's own Justina Chen Headley for the release of North of Beautiful (Little Brown, 2009) at 3 p.m. Feb. 1 at Barnes & Noble (626 106th Ave.) in Bellevue, Washington. Don't miss the "Find Beauty Challenge," wherein you're invited to submit a 90-second video of what you find truly beautiful and thereby qualify to win an iPod. Justina also will donate $10 (up to $1,000) "to help kids with cleft lips in third-world countries."

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will be speaking on "First Drafts" at the February monthly meeting of the Writers' League of Texas at 7:30 Feb. 19 at the League office in Austin (611 S. Congress Avenue).

"The Profit, Pleasures and Pitfalls of Author Visits to Schools" with author-illustrator Mark Mitchell will be at 11 a.m. Feb. 21 at BookPeople in Austin. "For published authors of children's books, school visits can make a lot of sense. They're a terrific way to connect with your market and, if done right, a revenue source for an author. The machinery of 'school tours' contains many moving parts: organization, 'market positioning,' salesmanship, public relations, communication, technology, travel, book sales, book-keeping and more. Mark will discuss [how to frame a business model that works] and will help to grow your success as an author. He'll also touch on crafting a performance that speaks to the kids, and connects with them." The event is sponsored by Austin SCBWI.

"Mark's Raising La Belle (Eakin, 2002), about a 312 year old Texas shipwreck won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America (for best juvenile nonfiction book) and the United States Maritime Literature Award. In 2006, he began touring schools with his Raising La Belle presentation. Since then he has visited 83 schools around the state and received many rave reviews from librarians, teachers, and students."

Due to a technical difficulty, Cynthia's discussion of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and related forthcoming books on the teen grid of Teen Second at Second Life has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 24. See more information.

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.

The First Annual African American Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference will take place on April 25. The conference will be held at the Hilton Charlotte University Place, in Charlotte North Carolina. Speakers will include: editor Sarah Ketchersid; editor Eileen Robinson; author Eleanora E. Tate; author-illustrator Don Tate; author Christine Taylor Butler; author Jacquelin Thomas; author Kelly Starling Lyons; and author Christine Young-Robinson.

Cynthia will visit the YA book club at the Cedar Park (Texas) Public Library at 11 a.m. May 30.

Note: Cynthia on occasion speaks of herself in the third person. It's a Kansas thing.
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