Friday, May 01, 2009

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win an ARC of Pure by Terra Elan McVoy (Simon Pulse, 2009)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Pure" in the subject line. Deadline: May 30. From the promotional copy:

"Tabitha and her four best friends all wear purity rings, symbols of the virginity-until-marriage pledge they made years ago. Now Tab is fifteen, and her ring has come to mean so much more. It's a symbol of who she is and what she believes—a reminder of her promises to herself, and her bond to her friends.

"But when Tab meets a boy whose kisses make her knees go weak, everything suddenly seems a lot more complicated. Tab's best friend, Morgan, is far from supportive, and for the first time, Tabitha is forced to keep secrets from the one person with whom she's always shared everything. When one of those secrets breaks to the surface, Tab finds herself at the center of an unthinkable betrayal that splits her friends apart. As Tab's entire world comes crashing down around her, she's forced to re-examine her friendships, her faith, and what exactly it means to be pure."

Enter to win a paperback copy of Sacajawea by Joseph Bruchac (Harcourt, 2008)! To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Sacajawea" in the subject line. Deadline: May 30! From the promotional copy: "Captured by her enemies, married to a foreigner, and a mother at age sixteen, Sacajawea lived a life of turmoil and change. Then, in 1804, the mysterious young Shoshone woman met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Acting as interpreter, peacemaker, and guide, Sacajawea bravely embarked on an epic journey that altered history forever. Hear her extraordinary story, in the voices of Sacajawea and William Clark in alternating chapters, with selections from Clark's original diaries." Read a Cynsational interview with Joe.

Author Interview with Lucienne Diver and Giveaway of Vamped from Linda Gerber: YA Author. Peek: "When I was young (about six or seven years old), I wanted to be a cryptozoologist–be the person to actually find the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot and all that. I think when I grew up that interest in exploration and discovery led to my major in anthropology." Note: see more about the launch from Lucienne's LJ!

More News

Happy Buy Indie Day! Note: "The idea: buy one book—paperback, hardcover, audiobook, whatever you want!—at an independent bookstore near you."

Hugh Jackman on Free Comic Book Day (the first Saturday in May), not to mention, the trailer for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Peek: "Free Comic Book Day is a single day--the first Saturday in May--when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free* to anyone who comes into their stores." *Check with your local shop for their participation and rules.

The 10,000 Hour Secret To Success from Donna Bowman Bratton at Simply Donna. Peek: "I was a competitive child and, when I was as young as eight, I was showing Quarter horses. At that age, I lost more than I won. My parents would soothe the hurt by sharing some wisdom that I didn't quite understand at the time. 'We all have to pay our dues.'"

Novel confections: Author Gaby Triana's cakes are as imaginative as her plots by Ana Veciana-Suarez from The Miami Herald. Peek: "So if you're in the market for, say, a baby shower cake, expect Triana to ask probing questions about the colors you like and how you're decorating the baby's nursery. She is not a pink-is-for-girls, blue-is-for-boys kind of baker. For birthdays, she likes to deliver a product that says something about the honoree--a cake shaped like a bull dolphin for a fisherman, for example." Read a Cynsations interview with Gaby.

Bethany Hegedus Talks About Between Us Baxters: an author interview from from Sarah Sullivan at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "It is a pet-peeve of mine in books where black and white friendships are portrayed that the white child is seen as 'perfect' or 'noble'--especially in those set in the civil rights era. Polly and Timbre Ann are both flawed but that doesn't make their love for one another any less real; in fact, I hope it makes it more so."

The Golden Age of Picture Book Biography from Mark Tyler Noble at Noblemania. Peek: "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman is a picture book and it is shelved in the children's section of bookstores, but I wrote it for all ages. I've appeared at a diverse bunch of venues for it, from museums to comic conventions. At most of them (aside from school visits, naturally), I seem to be signing more books to adults than to kids."

Austin SCBWI-Blooming Tree Writers' Bootcamp Conference Report from Madeline Smoot at Buried in the Slush Pile. Includes links to her handout for an online marketing session and a checklist for critiquers (PDF, scroll to end).

Attention Authors: Link to Your Local Independent Bookstore by Josie Leavitt from Shelftalker: A Children's Booksellers Blog. Peek: "'ve supported a store that has supported you." Note: We should all be actively championing our indies and looking for ways to raise their profiles in our communities. See also Adult Readers in the Kids' Section. Note: about half of my reader mail comes from folks over age 25.

What's Cool about Being a Writer from Carrie Jones. Peek: "Did I mention the whole not-having-to-get-up-early to go to work thing?" Read a Cynsations interview with Carrie.

An Exploration of Dialogue-Heavy Scenes from Varian Johnson from Crowe's Nest. Peek: " instances where an author wishes to move a reader through a scene very quickly, the author must cut out as much unnecessary material as possible, while still conveying the thoughts and feelings of the main character." Read a Cynsations interview with Varian.

Marvelous Marketer: Ingrid Law (Newberry Award Winning Author of Savvy) from Shelli at Market My Words: Marketing Advice for Authors/Illustrators from a Marketing Consultant & Aspiring Children's Book Author. Peek: "Try from the very start to find a balance between your focus on marketing and your focus on continued writing. It is easy to get so tied up thinking about the marketing of your first book that your next book, or your writing in general, becomes neglected."

Writing Race by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "...ten questions we writers can ask ourselves once we've completed a story." Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

Flux Holds Steady Through Changes by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Flux reports a 30% increase in sales this year over last year, and its two in-house publicists have been fielding calls recently from Hollywood agents and producers looking to tap into popular teen reading trends by adapting Flux titles for television shows targeting that market."

SCBWI Annual Summer Conference: see faculty, schedule and more information. The event will take place Aug. 7 to Aug. 10 at the Hyatt Recency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. Note: registration opens May 5. Source: Alice's CWIM Blog.

Check out this book trailer for If I Stay by Gail Forman (Dutton, April 2009) Source: Literaticat.

Cynsational Author Reminder: consider listing your title, byline, publisher, publication date, and illustrator (if you have one) on the dedicated website page for each of your books. It's not a bad idea to include the ISBN too.

Cynsational Author Reminder: you (probably) own the copyright to your book, not to all reviews about it. Don't republish them in their entirety without permission. Note: if you offer a short quote, it's also courteous to include a link to the source.

Blog Central: Children's Book Reviewers from Anastasia Suen's Blog Central. Newly updated. Note: Cynsations doesn't review per se, but rather offers recommendations (positives only) and conversations. See guidelines.

Congratulations to Aimee Bissonette on the release of Cyber Law: Maximizing Safety and Minimizing Risk in Classrooms (Corwin, 2009)!

readergirlz Pick of the Month: Red Glass by Laura Resau. Peek: "One night Sophie's family is called to a hospital, where five-year-old Pablo is recovering from dehydration. He was the sole survivor of a group of Mexican immigrants crossing the border. Sophie's family takes him in and comes to love him. A year later, Sophie must take a road trip with an unlikely group of people to Pablo's hometown in Mexico. Full of fears at first, she ends up opening herself to adventure and growing closer to Angel -- a boy her age with a secret. When Sophie dares to travel alone into Guatemala to save Angel, she explores whether love is worth the risk of loss."

Congratulations to Tony Abbott for receiving the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Fiction for The Postcard (Little, Brown)(author interview) and to John Green for receiving the 2009 Edgar for Best Young Adult Novel for Paper Towns (Dutton)(author interview about previous release). See all the winners and finalists here. Sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. Source: GalleyCat.

More Personally

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith posted by Mrs. Johnson from Pettus Secondary Library Blog. Peek: "The ending brought a tear to my eye--total selfless love is a wonderful thing."

Congratulations to Austin's own Alison Dellenbaugh on signing with a literary agent!

Here's one last pic from the Kansas-Arkansas pic. Here we have Greg with Dr. Bushman of The Writing Conference and Sheryl Servatius-Brown, librarian of Ottawa High School. See my complete event report!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Author Interview: Kay Cassidy on The Great Scavenger Hunt Contest

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

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

Cynthia Interviews Kay

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

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

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

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

What exactly is The Hunt?

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

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

How does The Hunt work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kay Interviews Cynthia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cynsational Notes

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Voice: Ellen Jensen Abbott on Watersmeet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cynsational Notes

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Author Interview: Alex Flinn on A Kiss In Time

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

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

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

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

What was your initial inspiration for writing the book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 27, 2009

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

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

More News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Personally

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

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

Event Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't miss Greg's report!
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