Friday, March 06, 2009

Author Interview: Saundra Mitchell on Shadowed Summer

Saundra Mitchell on Saundra Mitchell: "I've been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. Now that I'm an author and screenwriter, I'm happy that I've finally found my calling."

What were you like as a young reader?

Voracious. Cereal boxes, newspapers, toothpaste tubes, comics, books, equipment manuals, if it had words on it, I wanted to read it. To this day, I can tell you that Crest is a clinically approved dentifrice and you don't get ice cream at Dairy Queen--you get quiescently frozen dairy treats.

My mother claims she took Kathleen Windsor's Forever Amber (MacMillan, 1944) away from me when I was four or five. Shortly after that, she introduced me to the library. (And probably specifically the juvenile section!)

Why do you write for teenagers today?

That's just what comes out! When I wrote Shadowed Summer, I thought I was writing for an adult mainstream audience. Rachel, one of my beta readers, finished it and said, "This is a young adult novel!" And my response was, "Really?"

I don't know why I was surprised; YA and MG are the only fiction I read, and I set out to write a book that made me feel giddy and destroyed and overwhelmed like The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause (Laurel Leaf, 1990)(author interview) did when I was 17. Sometimes, you're the last one to know yourself.

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

Everything is the end of the world. Everything is new. Everything is possible; everything is impossible. I love the absolute desperation that comes with smart people who are experiencing things for the first time.

I joke with my friends that I like to blow stuff up, but in a way that's true. I like to see how things can explode and what happens when they do. And that works best with teen protagonists. I mean, think about it.

If Romeo and Juliet were 30, they wouldn't be tragic--they'd be pathetic.

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

I've had a slightly weird path, in that I'd been a screenwriter for fifteen years before publishing my first novel. So I never know whether to include that path with this one. For example, if I hadn't been a little burned out on film, I never would have written a novel at all.

But I wrote my very first script because someone read one of my short stories and asked if I could adapt it. (I said yes, then spent the weekend learning how to write scripts.)

So, they're completely tangled, but completely unrelated. Do the hitches and stumbles trying to secure representation in LA really reflect on the challenge of finding a literary agent? I'm not sure.

I've had a really exciting and rich career in short film. More than three hundred productions, a hundred and fifty festival selections, and 10 trips up to Academy Award eligibility. (No nominations... yet!) Even though I've worked on the periphery of Hollywood instead of fully in it, I've met amazing people and learned so much.

But films aren't yours in the same way that novels are; they're a collaborative art form. The director decides what the eye sees; the actor decides the tone of voice, the motion of their hands. The editor decides the pace and rhythm of the story.

Yes, absolutely, in fiction, you have your agent, and your editor, and the copyeditors, all working together to make a novel as good as it can possibly be, but in the end, that book is your book. The characters say what you want, the way you want. The picture in the window is yours.

And I wanted a taste of that after spending a long, long, long time of handing my words to the next person down the line and letting go. As publication paths go, I know I'm actually very, very lucky.

I wrote my second novel and got my first agent within the same year. My climb to publication is actually pretty fast, if I isolate fiction from screenwriting. But if I don't, it's been a long career full of all kinds of stumbles and sprints that don't finish with my book being published.

My friend Kurtis Scaletta talked recently about the difficulties of describing a career in writing as a "path." This is exactly the sort of question he had in mind!

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

I wish I had realized what I was doing when I was younger. I feel like I'm getting a very late start compared to so many amazing authors.

I mean, Jessica Burkhart is twenty-two, a total sweetheart, and she's got the whole Canterwood Crest Series (Scholastic, 2009) on shelves and in hands already. I definitely feel like I'm trying to catch up!

Congratulations on Shadowed Summer (Delacorte, 2009)(excerpt)! Could you tell us a little about the novel?

Thank you so much! Shadowed Summer (Delacorte, 2009) is a southern gothic ghost story, about Iris Rhame's fourteenth summer in dying, backwater Ondine, Louisiana.

Just when Iris and her best friend Collette are about to give up their childhood games of pretending magic and conjuring magic, a real ghost whispers in Iris's ear--"Where y'at?"

And with that whisper, Iris, Collette, and Collette's first boyfriend, end up immersing themselves in mystery of a teen who disappeared decades ago. But what they discover is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

Initially, I had the main character, Iris show up in my head. She didn't come with a story. She didn't seem to want anything. She loomed there, silently waiting--for what, I had no idea.

Finally, I decided I would write a supernatural love story, and that's when Iris intervened. She wasn't interested in falling in love--with the living, or the dead. So I still had a character, and some of her friends but no idea what to do with them.

Around that time, I got news that one of my best friends from high school had taken his own life. Which stirred up embers of thoughts I had mostly let cool after my brother's suicide when we were teens.

It was a shock, both times, because it's a terrible, final reminder that we can't really know anyone.

So Iris settled down with me to think about that--to roll that idea over with me: we don't know what other people contain. And that means no one else will ever know what we contain, either.

That's where Shadowed Summer came from.

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

I wrote the first draft of Shadowed Summer in the summer of 2003. I submitted it to the Delacorte Press YA prize that year, and landed my first agent with it. I didn't win (or even place!), and over a year and a half my agent and I revised with a publisher interested enough to give notes, but not interested enough to make an offer.

Eventually, the editor asked if maybe my main character could be crazy instead of haunted, and I withdrew it from consideration. I eventually parted company with my first agent as well, I think in 2006?

I waited six months and started my agent search anew...with exactly one query. I was ready to give up! But I told myself, I should try one more time--fully expecting to give myself an easy out! Luckily for me, the one agent I queried--Sara Crowe--took me on. Three months later, in January 2007, she sold Shadowed Summer to Delacorte Press. (I guess it was destiny!)

Then, the first thing I had to ask my brand new editor was- "Will it be okay if we don't start revising until July?" My part in the film programs for which I work devours every second of time I have from February 'til June, when I hand the scripts off to production. She was totally understanding, which was such a relief!

We revised from July until November in 2007, and then I saw my copyedits and FPPs in the spring of 2008. My book will finally be on shelves February 10, 2009! My daughter was barely a year old when I started this novel. She starts second grade in the fall!

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author? Or, more globally, how is that adjustment going?

This is my first novel, and so far, I'm overwhelmed. Trying to figure out the rhythm of the waiting--between edits, or between sales--that's tripped me up a couple of times. And since it's my first, I feel like I should do everything people ask me to, to promote it.

I'm not a relaxed anticipater--if something is going to happen, I'm wound up until it actually happens. I'm still adjusting to an industry where "soon" can be measured in months. And I'm not really chill about getting things done at a leisurely pace. If I have an interview, or a revision, I have to bang on it until it is done.

I think I'm getting better, though! I actually said "no" to some things this week, I let some questionnaires wait overnight, and I'm starting to get the hang of ignoring submissions and potential news so I can get back to work.

So I figure, at this rate, I will be Publishing Zen... soon.

What was it like, being a debut author in 2009?

Terrifying! This whole debut thing is scary anyway, right? I had no idea that three-revision passes were normal. I didn't even know what FPPs were, or that I would see them! Copyedit symbols, ARCs, whether an ARC is a galley... there's so much to learn, punctuated by long periods of time where everyone's too busy working to talk to you.

So it's already nerve wracking, and then late in the year, some houses quit acquiring new books. Then other houses started laying people off, erasing entire divisions--so many friends lost their editors in November and December! (I feel so lucky that I wasn't one of them!)

Which means, of course, people have to start talking about how the Newbery is no longer relevant and the returns policy has to change or it's all over and publishing might be dead anyway because of the Kindle.

Then, to top it off, came the news that all books without third-party lead-free certification might be pulled from shelves on February 10th--the same day I'm supposed to debut.

Talk about a relaxing and exciting entrance into the world of publishing!

What do you do outside the world of books?

I'm a screenwriter, and now an executive producer with the teen film series Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair. We teach talented teen all over the U.S. how to produce a movie, and then we give them the equipment and the support they need to do it!

I used to write all the screenplays based on teen-submitted ideas, but now I run the Emerging Screenwriters program. Under my instruction, nine teens revise, refine and sometimes write brand new scripts until they're ready for production.

And, it's not wicked exciting or anything, but I do a lot of corporate and and content writing on the side. I draft letters, or newsletter copy, or...basically, anything people want written, I can write it for them! The words are an addiction for me, what can I say?

What can your fans look forward to next?

Novel-wise, we're still working on what my next book should be. But I'll definitely be spearheading the next season of Emerging Screenwriters with Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Alumnus Offers "Color" Commentary on Writing for Kids from Shelflife@Texas. An interview with author Chris Barton. Peek: "I had seen Bob Switzer’s obituary in The New York Times in 1997, and the story of how he and his brother had invented daylight fluorescent colors had these unlikely elements – a magic act and a terrible accident involving ketchup bottles – that made it unforgettable."

Writers and Depression by Nancy Etchemendy from the Horror Writers Association. A frank discussion of warning signs and why writers are so vulnerable. Be good to each other out there. Take care of yourselves. Peek: "Having other writers to talk to can help you keep a healthier perspective. One note of caution here, though. Be careful about participating in a workshop or critique group while you're depressed. Inept or unnecessarily harsh criticisms can exacerbate the problem." Note: I run this link periodically, but I would encourage everyone to be especially aware given the economic situation and negative media.

Obama's story thrills youngstersz: Indoctrination or simply case of supply and demand? by Scott Galupo of The Washington Post. Peek: "Author Nikki Grimes' Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope - pitched to children ages 5 to 10 - hit bookstores in August...with 325,000 copies sold..."

80,000 words of Fun, Fun, Fun from Maggie Stiefvater. Peek: "15,001-18,000 words: "The First Epiphany Phase" I are a writer! I can do this fast! I love this - the angst, the passion, the sheer criminality of this character and the emo-city of this other one! I am having a Writer High!"

If you are on Facebook, you can become a fan of Carrie Jones's Need (Bloomsbury, 2009). See also Moving On Up: 'Need' by Carrie Jones by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly.

Bree Biesinger Despain: Confessions of a Mere Mortal: Mild mannered citizen sets out to do the extraordinary--get her books published. Yep, I'm a YA author! Peek: "So only a few weeks after buying my novel, the marketing team at Egmont USA asked me to provide them with an official author picture to be used on the back of my book and other promotional materials. Which basically caused a panic of monumental proportions at my house. . ." Note: congratulations!

Enter to win a copy of Torched by April Henry (Putnam, 2009). Deadline: March 15. Read an interview with April at sea heidi write. Peek: "I have one active and another retired FBI agent who are great about answering questions about all kinds of things. And I'm on a listserv where a bunch of cops, ex-FBI agents, CSIs, firefighters, and private investigators are willing to answer questions."

Cool science, where are you? by Fiona Bayrock, from (Charlesbridge) Unabridged. Peek: "I don't set out to teach anything. Instead, my goal is to share. This may sound like splitting hairs or playing with semantics, but it's actually an important distinction. Both involve the author imparting knowledge, but the mindsets are different, and so the attitude and approach to the writing is different, too." Source: The Miss Rumphius Effect.

YA YANot?: the official social network of TeensReadToo. See my page.

"Magical Magazine Fiction" by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "Fantasy in magazines differs from fantasy in books in several important ways..."

Cigarettes and Red Vines: The Necessary, Blurry Line of YA Fiction by Kim Culbertson. Peek: "Now, before you start thinking these women are behind the times, these are smart, progressive women I'm talking about here. They have very open minds and a very broad reading palette. They just expressed being...concerned. They wondered aloud if by having so much sex and drugs and alcohol present in all the books (and so much of it is so casual) makes these things seem ordinary to the twelve year old reading it."

Random House Buys Ten Speed Press (Tricycle Press) from Children's Book Biz News. Peek: "Editorial will remain in Berkeley, California and Ten Speed will become part of the Crown Publishing Group, one of four divisions at Random House."

Meet the Brown Bookshelf: Carla Sarratt. Peek: "I still have not shed my teacher persona so that comes out in my writing. I want to still be able to teach through my writing yet not have it feel like 300 pages of homework." See also Meet the Brown Bookshelf: Varian Johnson.

TMI (or To Blog or not to Blog) by Kristina Springer from Author2Author. Peek: "You most likely wouldn't go up to someone in an office and say hey, guess what my salary is. Right? So don't do it online either."

Homespun Light is the new home of Deliciously Clean Reads. It will also feature craft ideas, day-to-day life, picture book reviews, learning activities, and more. Peek: " I started this blog where anyone can recommend books as long as they are free of sex, profanity, and graphic violence."

More Personally

TeensReadToo gives Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) five stars and cheers: "This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is filled with danger, deception, humor, love, sadness, and hope."

Looking for a signed copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) or Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007)?

You can find it in the BookKids department of my local independent bookstore, BookPeople, located at 6th and Lamar in Austin, Texas; or you can order it by calling: 512.472.5050 or 800.853.9757(shipping priced separately). Note: "BookPeople is open all week 9 a.m. -11 p.m., 364 days a year."

As long as you're shopping, why not take a look around and see what else you can find?

Here's the local author shelf...


You can also check out spooky fantasies...

Giveaway Reminders

Enter to win a paperback copy of Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde (Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, 2008)(originally published in 1999) from Cynsations. To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Dead Man" in the subject line. I'll touch base if you win. Deadline: March 18! All Cynsational readers are eligible!

Giveaway and Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Liviania from In Bed With Books. Enter to win a copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009). Peek: "...author contest can be entered by commenting on his or her interview or guest blog. The comment must be relevant to the content of the post." Scroll here for how to earn bonus points.

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

Cynsational Events

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

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

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

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Interview: Sharon Darrow on the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults and the Picture Book Certificate Program

Sharon Darrow has taught writing at Waubonsee Community College, College of DuPage, and Columbia College of Chicago. She writes poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, picture books, and novels. She is the faculty chair of the MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including Lee Bennett Hopkins's Home to Me: Poems Across America (Scholastic). She is the author of Old Thunder and Miss Raney (D-K Ink, 2000), which was honored by Western Writers of America; Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein (2003), a Junior Literary Guild Selection; a novel, The Painters of Lexieville (2003); and a narrative in poems, Trash (2006), all from Candlewick Press. The novel was named to KLIATT's Editors' Choice-Best of the Year YA Fiction list and won the Oklahoma Book Award for Young Adult fiction. Trash was also a Junior Literary Guild selection, an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award.

Sharon also teaches writing workshops and retreats and speaks in schools. She lives in Plainfield, Vermont.

Cynsations readers last heard from former faculty chair Kathi Appelt on the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults back in 2005. Could you remind us how low-residency study works at the college? What is the balance between creative and critical work?

We see the critical work as two-fold. First, it provides a basis for improving our own creative writing through analysis of the works of others. Second, the critical component allows us to grow in our ability to enter the conversation of our professional field and to take our places among those who study and ponder the overarching issues in children's literature today and, in particular, in the craft of writing for young people.

[See additional information on program structure and low-residency education (more globally) in the interview with Kathi.]

Could you describe the residencies?

Our residencies are like packing a whole semester's worth of class hours into ten days. We have lectures and discussions, workshops, readings, and writing exercises, plus an intensive conversation in the community about writing and writing for children and teens specifically.

Each residency includes speakers and writers-in-residence and artists-in-residence like Carolyn Coman, Jane Yolen, Laura McGee Kvasnosky, Jean Gralley, Nancy Werlin, Gregory Macguire, and Holly Black, to mention a few recent-and-upcoming visitors. Editors visit us as well--of late Melanie Kroupa, Susan Van Metre, and Jeannette Larson.

The past few years have been a time of exciting change. Could you update my audience on the news to date?

Yes, we've had very exciting news. We have become an independent college! We are in the enviable position of being able to establish ourselves as a viable and interesting graduate school of the arts here in New England.

Our three existing MFA programs (in Writing, Writing for Children & Young Adults, and Visual Arts) will grow in response to the needs of our students as they intersect with emerging opportunities in visual art and culture and in writing both for grown-up audiences and for younger audiences. In the future, other MFA programs will be added, so get ready to watch this college grow.

What inspired Vermont College of Fine Arts to launch as its own, separate institution?

For many years, it was a strong and energetic entity held by larger universities as a separate college. Over time it became clear that it could and did have a life of its own and, in fact, deserved to be cared for and grown by those who knew it intimately and who best reflected the mission and vision of Vermont College.

Who is on the current faculty? How would you describe their professional range, talents, and commitment to teaching?

Our current faculty and visiting faculty is made up of professional writers in the field of children's and young adult literature. Their interests and areas of expertise range from poetry to fiction to creative nonfiction, from writing for the very young to writing for upper-level YAs.

Our faculty members are: Kathi Appelt, Marion Dane Bauer, Margaret Bechard, Alan Cumyn, Sharon Darrow, Sarah Ellis, David Gifaldi, Louise Hawes, Ellen Howard, Uma Krishnaswami, Jane Kurtz, Julie Larios, Martine Leavitt, Leda Schubert, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Shelley Tanaka, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Tim Wynne-Jones.

These are expert teachers who are also experts in writing and are able to communicate clearly to students in lecture, workshop, or one-on-one teaching.

Their aim is to guide student writers as they make the journey into their own words, to find their own process, to grow their own stories, and to become expert writers who are also strong and capable in the craft of writing as well as able as critics and facilitators to good writing as well.

(It may be of interest that our board of directors also includes such distinguished authors as M.T. Anderson and Katherine Paterson.)

What is the criteria for teaching?

We hire critically acclaimed faculty who have had teaching experience and who are accomplished writers. All have a good deal of experience in the business of publishing, working with agents and editors, and navigating the waters of an ever-changing marketplace.

What is the range of writing experience for entering students?

We have the entire range from a very few who are just beginning to those who have published many books.

Most, however, fall into the category of writers who have studied for some time and who are prepared for the intensive process this program entails. Some have published perhaps one book, others none yet. But all are serious about this field and their place in it.

What minimum level of accomplishment do you recommend for entering students?

We look for students who have obviously spent time reading in the field and practicing the kind of writing they admire and want to produce.

We expect a good handling of grammar and punctuation and other basic tools of the writer.

We look for voice and spark, both somewhat indefinable, but evident when they are there and just as obvious when they are missing.

We expect at least 25 hours a week of dedicated time to this study and so want to know if that is possible, given the prospective student's current lifestyle.

Are established authors welcome to enroll in the program? What would inspire someone who's already publishing successfully to pursue the MFA?

Of course! VCFA has graduated many students who were already established, publishing authors. Each person has his or her own reasons--to take it up a notch, to try genres not tried before, to acquire a degree that qualifies one to teach in college, to become a part of a larger community of writers for a lifetime of connection and continuing education, etc.

Each of us on the faculty feel that we are receiving a huge bonus ourselves as working writers by being a part of this program, learning more and more about our craft, being challenged to write what we haven't written before, and to enter the larger conversation on a more academic level.

Can you offer examples of established authors who've chosen to enroll at VCFA?

Oh, yes. Our grads include Carolyn Crimi, Stephanie Green, Carol Lynch Williams, Candice Ransom, Sherry Shahan, to name a few.

Could you tell us about the picture book certificate program?

This is a new program designed to enrich our students' study of the picture book as a special area of concentration, as well as offer an opportunity to those not enrolled in the MFA degree program to spend an intensive semester in the study and writing of the picture book.

The student will attend a residency at the beginning of the semester and one at the end, which culminates in the presentation of a paper or lecture on a aspect of writing the picture book that they have researched and practiced that semester.

The residency workshops are made up of picture book writers exclusively and lead into and cap off the semester study, which is made up of both individual and group-study activities.

What is the relationship between the certificate and degree programs? Is the picture book semester transferable for credit toward the MFA?

The certificate program is separate from the degree program, but can be transferred as credit upon (a) application and acceptance into the program, (b) the granting of a petition made by the student, and (c) the approval by the advisory committee and faculty chair.

Is it likewise open to those already publishing?

It is, in the same way. The semester is designed to provide an opportunity for the writer to grow exponentially in the area of study. We believe that this specialized semester will accelerate the writer's "apprenticeship" in publishing and enhance the growth of the already published author.

What is the relationship to the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and the other VCFA MFA programs?

We are a college made up of three programs whose aim is all the same: excellence.

Is there an opportunity for joint study within two (or more) programs, and if so, how would that work?

There is an opportunity for dual-genre study between the MFA-Writing and MFA-Writing for Children & Young Adults programs. This would entail a five-semester degree with two semesters in one program, three in the other, depending upon the chosen emphasis.

In order to do this option, students must apply to both programs and be accepted by both. However, if they are accepted to only one, then they will have the opportunity to attend that program, if desired.

More globally, could you describe the morale and culture of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program?

This is a strong community of like-minded writers who support one another, challenge one another, and rejoice with one another.

Though like-minded in this aspect and in the love of children's books, there is diversity of background, prior educational experience, ethnicity, age, interest, and just about any other likely category.

I believe there is no place in the U.S., in much of Canada, and many other places in the world that we might travel and be unable to find one of our alumni. That is part of what makes the low-residency study model so viable and vigorous. We bring such diversity to our common love of writing.

What do you want to say to those considering a low-residency MFA in Writing for young readers?

Do it. You'll love it. You are in for a treat and a great adventure, something that will change your life and introduce you to people you will know for the rest of your life. I know that sounds over the top--but it really isn't.

And for those who say, well, I don't really want to change my life and I have enough friends already, I challenge you to come to VCFA and see if you are surprised. Our main objective is to grow writers who write wonderful books for young people, but the "side-effects" of that include a truly rewarding life experience.

Why do you teach at VCFA? How does it compare to your previous teaching experiences?

I've taught writing for the continuing education departments of Waubonsee Community College and College of DuPage, taught undergraduate literature, composition, and poetry workshops at Columbia College Chicago, and I've taught many SCBWI workshops and retreats. I love teaching!

But I love teaching at VCFA most of all. It's my community now, the place I belong and where I get great satisfaction from seeing my students grow strong and confident as writers.

With regard to your own writing, you last visited Cynsations in June 2006. Could you update us on Trash (Candlewick, 2006)?

Ah, Trash was such fun to send out into the world. I love when people read it and then want to talk about the poetry forms in it and about how such strategies can be used as vehicles of characterization and to propel narrative flow.

I also really like that more boys seem to have read it and are moved to write me than they have with the other books. That's kind of cool.

What do you do when you're not writing or teaching?

I'm probably reading about the Middle Ages or watching PBS or sitting on my deck watching the sunset over the Vermont mountains or hiking or snowshoeing or meeting friends in town or, when I'm lucky, getting to travel to visit my daughters or go out and about in the wide world--France being my current favorite destination.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

I'd just like to encourage your readers who might be interested to take the further step of talking to someone they know who has the MFA degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts, or calling Katie Gustafson at 802.828.8696 or Susannah Noel at 802.828.8637--or emailing me [see sidebar].

I'm happy to talk more about this place I love, this writing for children that we are all so dedicated to, or even what the weather's like or the food in the NECI cafeteria--anything that interested persons would like to know.

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith from In Bed With Books, Eternal Giveaway

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Liviania from In Bed With Books. Peek: "In fantasy, you have to succeed at everything you would in realistic fiction, plus make the fantasy elements hold together logically and earn their place in terms of character, plot, and theme. Beyond that, you can in some ways go more dramatic with your theme because the metaphor dilutes the risk of it being too on the nose."

Enter to win a copy of Eternal (Candlewick, 2009). Peek: "...author contest can be entered by commenting on his or her interview or guest blog. The comment must be relevant to the content of the post." Scroll here for how to earn bonus points.

Cynsational Notes

Illustrator Interview: Gene Brenek on Images of Eternal from Cynsations. Peek: "I got such a kick out of the descriptions of Joshua and Zachary. According to Zach, being blessed with good hair is one of the assets to being an angel. I had to use a typeface that really captured the essence of heavenly hair. As much work as these guardian angels do, they deserved their own T-shirt [see below]."


Interview: Shayne Leighton on the Eternal Trailer and "The Incubus" from Cynsations. Peek: "You...gave me a rough list of the textual aspects that you wanted to see in the trailer as well as the royalty-free piece of music, and I went from there."

Eternal Trailer

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Author Interview: Jessica Lee Anderson on Trudy

Jessica Lee Anderson on Jessica Lee Anderson: "I call Texas home although I was born in Arizona and lived in Hawaii for several years. I won a hula competition when I was six, but the most hip shaking I do these days is by playing the hula hoop game on the Nintendo Wii Fit.

"I've always loved to make up stories, and my parents found me an awesome program called 'Snoopy Writer' for our Commodore 64 as a way to encourage me to write.

"I dreamed about being an author, but I wasn't sure if it would be possible, especially since I struggled with writing assignments at school. I continued to dream though and tried to create my first novel in high school. While it was a failure, the process taught me about perseverance.

"After high school, I went on to become a teacher and later graduated from Hollins University with a graduate degree in children's literature and a passion to write for children and teens. I now have a much more updated computer that I use to capture my ideas and haven't stopped dreaming."

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

As a young reader, I devoured books! I treasured the time my mom spent reading to me as well as the many hours we spent at the library. I read anything and everything by Judy Blume and Mildred Taylor. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (Puffin, 1972) was one of my favorites. In fact, I later named a pet turtle Dribble.

Another one of my favorite books was Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski (Dutton, 1979). I loved the simple text and the hauntingly cool illustrations and paper effects. My childhood copy is still in decent shape.

What first inspired you to write for teens?

I felt drawn to write for teens after taking a children's literature course in college and also while I was student teaching at a middle school. Perhaps the trauma and drama of my own teen years helps me to connect with this age group.

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

I attended my first SCBWI conference and signed up for a critique of my manuscript (which was to be later titled "Trudy"). This experience was definitely a sprint and boosted my confidence as the editor requested it. While the manuscript was ultimately rejected, I had the courage to keep submitting.

Meanwhile, I'd read somewhere that craft articles are in high demand and a great way to break into print. This was true for me--my first sales were craft articles to children's magazines.

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

Joining SCBWI and attending conferences--there is such a wealth of information available and the sense of community is amazing!

Congratulations on the success of Trudy (Milkweed, 2005)! Could you tell us a little about the book?

Trudy's parents are old. Really old. Like so old they get mistaken for her grandparents. Besides dealing with this,Trudy also struggles with math and changing friendships.

When her father begins to repeat himself, forget things (including her), and is generally confused, Trudy knows her life will be forever changed. She must find the strength to accept things and be there for her family.

What was your initial inspiration for the story?

Watching my grandmother lose her independence to Alzheimer's has been incredibly painful. Writing Trudy was a way for me to release the grief I felt and to also remember the happy and funny times together.

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

I wrote the story in 2001, and after several rejections, I once again sent the manuscript off to the slush pile.

In 2003, I got a call from Milkweed Editions expressing interest in the story. After much revising, the book was released in 2005.

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

Quite honestly, the book needed some extensive edits. Fortunately, my editor, Ben Barnhart, believed in Trudy's story and was willing to patiently work with me. I changed the ending and streamlined much of the plot, which was painful to do at times but definitely worth it.

Could you update us on your other publications?

Presidential Pets (Continental Press, 2006) is a nonfiction reader about a variety of pets that have lived in White House over the years.

What is a Living Thing?
(Celebration Press, an imprint of Pearson, 2007), also a nonfiction reader, compares and contrasts living versus nonliving things.

I'm anxiously waiting for my young adult novel called Border Crossing (Milkweed Editions) to be released next fall.

You also write for the children's magazine market! What do you love about it?

Writing for the children's magazine market is so enjoyable because you get to reach a large and diverse young audience.

When I'm between novels, writing magazine articles or short stories helps keep me challenged and keeps the creativity flowing. It is also a good way to build writing credits.

What recommendations do you have for those looking to break in?

Realize that rejections are part of the process and that an editor isn't rejecting you personally, but rather your manuscript for a variety of reasons (some of which may be out of your control). Don't give up!

In addition, you teach writing in conjunction with the Institute of Children's Literature? Could you tell us a little about ICL?

I've been with ICL for three years now. I have to admit, after seeing some of their advertisements, I had my doubts about the quality of the correspondence writing course the Institute of Children's Literature offers.

However, after researching and speaking with graduates, I realized that I was mistaken. The course, "Writing for Children and Teens," teaches writing and marketing skills in a very personalized manner. When a student submits an assignment to me, I critique it and then provide feedback on how to make the manuscript as strong as possible. Many of my students have gone on to be published.

How has teaching informed your own writing?

I have the privilege of receiving the newsletter and the great books from ICL, all of which keep me informed about opportunities and ways to improve my craft. After editing so many manuscripts, I've definitely become much stronger at self-editing!

Wow! You're busy! How do you balance it all?

Umm, sometimes the housework suffers. Well, probably more than sometimes. I've come up with a schedule (that I must readjust from time to time), and I also steal writing moments when I can, such as while I'm waiting at the dentist's office or on a flight.

What, if anything, do you wish you could change about publishing (as a business) and why?

I wish publishing was speedier since it can be so slow from the time you receive the contract until the time you hold that precious book in your hand.

I'd also like to see editors get more recognition for all the behind-the-scenes-things that they do to make the book a reality.

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

"Be patient and relax!" I'd spend unnecessary amounts of energy obsessing about the status of a submission. I practically stalked my mailbox!

As a reader, what were your favorite children's-YA books of 2008 and why?

There are so many great books of 2008! I particularly loved the picture book, Princess Peepers, written by Pam Calvert and illustrated by Tuesday Mourning (Marshall Cavendish, 2008). The text and the illustrations work so well together and add such humor when Princess Peepers decides to ditch her glasses in an effort to fit in.

Another favorite is Tracking Daddy Down by Marybeth Kelsey (Greenwillow, 2008). I really connected with Billie, the protagonist, in this middle grade novel. Billie's father robs a bank and she plans on talking some sense into him before the cops bust him. Things don't go the way she planned, and I particularly enjoyed how Billie grows as a character.

What do you do outside the world of publishing?

I adore spending time with my family and friends. My husband, Michael, and I have a goal to visit as many national parks in my lifetime as possible. Some of my favorite trips so far include snowshoeing the North Rim of Bryce Canyon by moonlight, grasping chains to climb to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion, and spotting bears and wolves in Yellowstone.

What can your readers look forward to next?

Border Crossing (Milkweed Editions, fall 2009) is the story of a biracial teen named Manz who lives in a west Texas town. After witnessing an immigration bust and learning more about Operation Wetback, his growing paranoia threatens to consume him.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win a paperback copy of Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde (Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, 2008)(originally published in 1999). From the promotional copy:

"When Selwyn is accused of murdering his rival, Farold, he is sealed in the village burial cave with Farold's moldering corpse to await starvation or worse. Worse comes along quickly in the form of a witch who raises Farold from the dead. Selwyn thought he disliked Farold when he was alive, but that was nothing compared to working by the dead man's side as they search for the real killer."

Winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best YA Mystery, BBYA, Quick Pick, A SLJ Best Book of the Year. The Bulletin said, "[A] supsenseful page-turner... The pace never lets up."

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Dead Man" in the subject line. I'll touch base if you win. Deadline: March 18! All Cynsational readers are eligible!

The winner of the Cynsations ARC giveaway of City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (McElderry Books, March 24, 2009) was Gina from Illinois. Congratulations, Gina!

More News

Author Interview: A.S. King: A Poised at the Edge Author Interview from Hello Ma'am. Peek: "I didn’t write with an outline, though I did write a lot of notes, which I do for every book. Pages and pages of them—a kind of thinking out loud for me, where I bounce things around to see how they sound."

Be yourself as a writer by Emily Marshall at Author2Author: 5 YA Authors, 5 Journeys. Peek: "Are you good at complex characters? Witty one-liners? Quirky, yet lovable heroines? Dark, mysterious plot lines? Good! Then don’t be afraid to play up your strengths and use them to your advantage."

Agent Update: Michelle Andelman from Anastasia Suen at Children's Book Biz News.

I was a Golden Kite Award Judge (Random facts & photos) from My Desk is a Mess: Amy Timberlake and Her Books. Peek: "What category did I help judge? Picture book text." See the list of 2009 winners and honorees.

Writing Retreats by Mary Atkinson from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "Settling in is a necessary part of going on retreat. It might take you an hour; it might take you three days. Either way, it's got to be done. One of the fastest ways I've found to settle in to a new retreat space is to unpack my suitcase and then take a nap."

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci: a review from Oops...Wrong Cookie "Where several Texas librarians write about books and stuff." Peek: "All kinds of geek- and nerddom is explored here. I was pleasantly surprised with the breadth of topics: Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy, academic teams, astronomy, high school spirit!, dinosaurs, online gaming, LARP (live-action role-playing)." Note: Geektastic includes "The Wrath of Dawn" by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith and will be released by Little, Brown in August 2009.

Congratulations to readergirlz on your second anniversary and to TeensReadToo on your third anniversary!

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams (McElderry, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith of GregLSBlog. Peek: "...effectively captures the feel of a small, close-knit ranching community, delivering believable and likeable characters and an affecting arc."

Wanted: Tough Questions about Diversity in Children's Books from Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "I want the session to be salty, fun, and enlightening, and I need your help. Which changes, trends, achievements, and challenges in the industry would you hope to see discussed? What would you like to know about diversity in children's and teen books? Anything goes, and the harder the question, the better."

We Ask An Agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis, Inc. from Sara Crowe at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "The agent should really have the name or names of editors who they think might be a fit for the project popping into his or her brain as they read. This is usually the big sign for me that an author and I may be a match."

Congratulations to Ann Dee Ellis on the release of Everything Is Fine (Little, Brown, 2009). From the promotional copy: "Stuck at home caring for her severely depressed mother and abandoned by her father, Mazzy has only the day-to-day dramas of her neighborhood to keep her busy. But between flirting with the boy next door and worrying about the fact that she's flat-chested, Mazzy has to face the fact that her mom is emotionally paralyzed by a family tragedy. As readers delve into the story, they'll eventually discover what it was that tore Mazzy's family apart, and they'll see what it takes to put it back together."

soup of the day by Jama Rattigan from Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. Peek: "Put on your flame retardant jumpsuit and sombrero, then let out a big OLÉ, for the master of the macabre and undisputed King of the Weenies, David Lubar, on the official release today of The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies (Starscape, 2009)!"

Book of Nonsense (CBAY, 2008) Giveaway from P. J. Hoover at Roots in Myths. Note the author of Book of Nonsence is David Michael Slater. Peek: "It's a fun book about a set of twins, a bookstore filled with awesome books, and of course a book with nonsense letters that change and appear and disappear. If you like fantasy books or know someone who does, this is a perfect book for you!"

Check out this book trailer for Torched by April Henry (Putnam, March 5, 2009):



Meet The BBS: Don Tate, Kelly Starling Lyons, Paula Chase Hyman from The Brown Bookshelf.

Sarah Garrigues: (Not so random) ramblings from an up-and-coming author. Peek: "Passionate about both children and literature, as a childcare director, I have daily inspiration for my craft."

More Personally

Thanks to Patti Kurtz and her students in "Adolescent Literature" at Minot State University for their hospitality at Monday's online chat. Please keep in touch!

Thanks to Megan Fink for sending on her article "Tasty Treats for Books with Bite," which appeared in the summer 2008 Young Adult Library Services magazine. In a sidebar, my own Quincie--of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) and soon Blessed (Candlewick, forthcoming) fame herself is interviewed! Here's a peek from "Interview with a New Vampire": "A shocking number of people prejudiced against shape-shifters. As someone who is wereperson-friendly, I highly recommend [Klause's] Blood and Chocolate to teens and Werewolf Rising by R.L. LaFevers to tweens. Obviously, these authors did their homework and found out that shifters can be good guys. Hm....or maybe they're shifters themselves. I've heard that Annette has been known to howl."

I'm honored to be the March Author of the Month at the Ultimate YA Reading Group at Facebook!

A timeless remedy for teen angst: a review by Norah Piehl of Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith from BookPage. Peek: "Smith has built on centuries of vampire lore to create a spooky, snarky, supernatural world all her own."

My husband and sometimes co-author is new on Facebook. If you know Greg Leitich Smith, please look for him there. You can say, "nice bangs, Batman."

A peek into my office. Bashi (in the box) and Leo (on the windowsill) bask in the spring sunshine. Note my crack organizational system for mailing supplies.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Announces the Winners and Honorees of the 2009 Golden Kite Awards

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Announces the Winners and Honorees of the 2009 Golden Kite Awards

The Golden Kite Award is the only award presented to children’s book authors and artists by their peers.

Golden Kite Award Winners


Fiction: Down Sand Mountain
by Steve Watkins
Candlewick Press


Nonfiction: A Life in the Wild: George Schaller's Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts
by Pamela S. Turner
Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Picture Book Text: A Visitor for Bear
by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Candlewick Press


Picture Book Illustration: Last Night
Illustrated and written by Hyewon Yum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Golden Kite Honor Recipients


Fiction: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
by Mary E. Pearson
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers


Nonfiction: The Mysterious Universe:
SuperNovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes
by Ellen Jackson; photographed and illustrated by Nic Bishop
Houghton Mifflin


Picture Book Text: Before John Was a Jazz Giant
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers


Picture Book Illustration: I Love My New Toy
Illustrated and written by Mo Willems
Hyperion

The Golden Kite Awards, given annually to recognize excellence in children's literature in the previous calendar year, grant cash prizes of $2,500 to author and illustrator winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration. Authors and illustrators will receive an expense-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the award ceremony at the Golden Kite Luncheon at SCBWI's Annual Summer Conference in August.

The SCBWI recognizes the work of editors and art directors who play pivotal roles in shaping the Golden Kite-winning books. Editors of winning books will receive $1,000, and for the winning book in the Picture Book Illustration category, an additional $1,000 will be given to the book's art director.

The Golden Kite Awards are given each year to the most outstanding children's books published during the previous year, and written or illustrated by members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Four panels of three judges each (one panel for each category, consisting of author or illustrator members of SCBWI whose own works are that of the category being judged), award the titles they feel exhibit excellence in writing or illustration, and that genuinely appeal to the interests and concerns of children. An Honor Book plaque is awarded in each category as well. A certificate of acknowledgment is presented to the author of the picture book illustration award book and the illustrator of the picture book text award book.

General Information

Founded in 1971, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children's literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children's book authors and leaders in the world of children’s literature. Several of the most prestigious children's literature professionals sit on the SCBWI Board of Directors.

The Golden Kite Awards will be presented to the winners on Sunday, August 9th at the Golden Kite Luncheon. This luncheon is part of the SCBWI's 38th Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, taking place at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel August 7-10, 2009.

A list of previous Golden Kite Award winners and honor books is available on the SCBWI’s website: www.scbwi.org.

Interview: Kent Brown on the Highlights Foundation, the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, and the Founders Workshops

Kent Brown on Kent Brown: "I got to Highlights quite by accident, and initially I found it hard to sit at a desk. Some of my career ideas were agriculture journalist, teacher, farmer. I have found considerable satisfaction in the things I've done in the Highlights organization for the past 38 years. Some years ago I admitted to myself that I was not going to be a writer, which I think has helped me to be happy editing and pointing others to writing."

What is the relationship between Highlights magazine and the Highlights Foundation?

Highlights for Children magazine and other parts of Highlights for Children, Inc. are a regular company with shareholders (mostly family).

The Highlights Foundation, Inc. is a non-for-profit 501(c)3 educational organization. It is run by a Board of Trustees, separate from the Highlights corporation. We are delighted to receive support from the Highlights corporation, but are not controlled by it.

Could you share with us some of the history of the foundation?

We started by running an experimental conference in Chautauqua, New York. The idea was to find caring faculty with big hearts and small egos, and offer a submersion for a week. We originally advertised a faculty-student ratio of one to four.

What are its goals?

The officialese is: to raise the level of the offering for children, which we do through educating and inspiring writers and illustrators passionate about serving kids.

We want to do this in a non-threatening atmosphere, helping others to overcome fear of rejection. Our specialty has been intense rather than enormous, individual rather than mass, and small and targeted rather than huge.

How do writers benefit from participating in a workshop experience?

Gaining belief in themselves is key. At our flagship Chautauqua conference, there are lots of opportunities for really getting to know other writers--students and faculty alike. Many say the distinction between the teachers and students disappears and all are learners.

Our Founders Workshop programs, held out at my grandparents' farm, provide an intimate and intense experience. Whereas the Chautauqua curriculum is broad--we offer forty-five workshops during the week--Founders Workshops are each targeted to a single topic, such as Writing YA Novels or Finding Your Voice or Writing About Nature.

When was the first Chautauqua workshop? What was it like?

The first ever Chautauqua was 1985. There were a lot of little logistical glitches, but the sharing and caring of the faculty came across, and the week became a life-changing experience for many. I was looking the other day at the picture of that first faculty. I have gratitude for those who took a chance on new idea.

The Highlights editors served as staff workers and cleaned rooms and did dishes.

How has the program grown?

Chautauqua has become refined and we now offer in our mix forty-five elective workshops that week. But the core strategy of lots of interaction has not changed.

We still make sure that the faculty and attendees mix and gets lots of time together. We have never had any head table. I think the concept of a head table is counter to our mission.

How have the workshops changed over the years?

The workshops themselves remain pretty much the same. We match faculty members to topics in their areas of expertise, and each one brings a unique sensibility and skill set to that topic. Participants get to choose between three workshops offered in each of three daily sessions from Monday through Friday. We also offer a general session to kick off each workshop day from faculty members who inspire us all.

What is the difference between the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua and the Founders Workshops?

In many ways, the Chautauqua experience is a broad survey, with lots of techniques and genres branching off. It's a combination of large group, small workshops, and one-on-one critiques.

The Founders Workshops are more intimate, and generally focus on targeted topics or specific genres.

What costs are involved?

In all our programs, you get yourself there, and we do the rest. Chautauqua is inclusive of all materials and meals, gate pass to the Chautauqua grounds, plus the entire workshop program. Lodging is an additional cost at Chautauqua.

So far we have avoided a la carte. It strikes me that paying separate for a specific service--a one-on-one critique session, for example--produces too great an expectation and places a specific value on what is only part of a greater process. Our Founders Workshops include everything--private cabins, gourmet meals, and topnotch instructors.

Long ago we decided we were not going to keep people alive on hot dogs and baked beans. We want everything from instruction to meals to be top shelf. Our programs may seem expensive when compared to short one day sessions, but when compared to an all-inclusive long weekend or an entire week away from home anywhere--even without instruction from some of the biggest names in children's literature--they're worth every penny.

What scholarship opportunities are available?

Of the 100 max attendees at Chautauqua, fully 25% receive some sort of financial aid. Our developing grant programs for the Founders Workshops provide support for a minimum of one in ten.

What faculty members will be leading workshops in 2009?

You can see the whole list on our Web site: www.highlightsfoundation.org. We're excited to have every one of these children's publishing pros with us.

Some of this year's notables are Philomel VP and editor at large Patricia Lee Gauch, Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann, Little Brown senior editor Alvina Ling, award-winning novelist Donna Jo Napoli, and popular picture book author Candace Fleming. We're also pleased to welcome our friends Eileen Spinelli and Jerry Spinelli.

What is your criteria for selecting teachers?

I guess you might say we look for the right combination of knowledge and niceness. Our faculty members are pros in the field, but they're also down-to-earth, accessible types who really want to help others reach their goals and dreams.

They're the kind of faculty members who'll plop down beside you at a picnic table and ask about your writing with genuine interest, then walk down to Bestor Plaza with you to get an ice cream.

What children's or YA books of late have "grown" from your workshops?

Many books grow out of our workshops--after twenty-five years, more than I could name. A few include: Lori Reis's Super Sam (Charlesbridge), which she actually wrote while at Chautauqua; Wolf Snail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah C. Campbell (one of this year's Theodore Seuss Geisel honor books), which grew out of our nature writing workshop; and Blue, a historical novel that evolved after one of Carolyn Yoder's history writing workshops.

These are just a few of the published books--many, many terrific books and stories grow out of our workshops, and we feel that each of them is equally important, whether they find publishers or not.

One of the important things to remember about our workshops is that every writer who comes is a writer of equal value--no matter what luminary might be sitting beside you at breakfast you'll quickly realize that they're just like you--someone who is excited about kids' books.

Which "name" and/or rising stars did you see when they were beginners?

Sharon Creech comes to mind. Sneed B. Collard, III. Candace Fleming, who's now on our faculty. Susan Campbell Bartolleti. Linda Oatman High. Cris Peterson. Virginia Kroll. Mary Casanova. Monica Gunning. Kristi Holl...once again, the list goes on and on.

But again, for us, it's not about names or stars--it's about writing for kids and loving it, and getting to know lots of other folks who feel the same way.

Is there an application process for participating writers?

Yes. Writers submit an application and writing sample. Jo Lloyd is happy to answer any questions and can be reached at 570.253.1192 or jalloyd@highlightsfoundation.org.

How would you describe the community--if there is one--that grows out of these programs?

Many communities and friendships grow out of these programs. Critique groups (some via email, some in person), Yahoo groups, Facebook friends, groups that come to workshops together year after year, writers who find editors, editors who find writers who become friends...the connections are too long to list.

I guess we feel that everyone who attends one of our programs becomes part of the Highlights family.
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