Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Voice: Cindy Pon on Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia

Cindy Pon is the first-time author of Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia (HarperTeen, 2009). From the promotional copy:

No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved--despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family--to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying--a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard...she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help...and perhaps more.

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

I think that I have a slightly different background than most.

I was born in Taiwan and came to the United States when I was six. It was mid-semester of first grade. I remember going into the class and not understanding anything. It made a deep impression on me--when a child cannot comprehend what's being said. I remember my first grade teacher writing my name on the board because I didn't know the alphabet, much less how to spell.

For a long time, I went away an hour a day with other recent immigrants from Taiwan to learn English from my ESL teacher. I remember sitting in the living room, staring longingly outside as the neighborhood kids played and I tried to memorize how to spell "yellow" and "slide" and "swing."

But at some point, my English ability surpassed my mom's (who was my devoted English tutor at home), and all of a sudden, a new fantastic world opened up to me in books. I remember reading voraciously as a child, and loving the Scholastic Book Orders! it was like Christmas every time!

I loved Noel Streatfield. Dancing Shoes and Ballet Shoes (1936) were my favorite--but I basically read the entire series. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (Houghton Mifflin, 1960) remains a favorite. It's the book I wish I had written. A Little Princess by Frances H. Burnett (1905) as well as a Wrinkle in Time by L'Engle (1962) were all read over and over again.

Like most writers, I began writing because I loved reading so much.

As someone working with a publicist, how did you identify that person? Why did you decide to go with professional help? What steps are the two of you taking to raise awareness of your new release?

I'm working with Rebecca Grose, who happens to be local in San Diego.

I found her through referral, and loved that she specialized in children's book publicity. I wanted to hire a personal publicist because this is all new to me, and I didn't think i was savvy enough to promote my debut as well as I'd like. I just wanted to give my all to Silver Phoenix. So it gave me peace of mind.

Already, Rebecca has connected me to a organization called Rolling Readers. They are local and doing a fundraiser dedicated to chidren's authors and artists. It's perfect as I'm doing a children's picture book as well, and I love that the function is for a good cause. She's also putting together a press kit for me, doing outreach to people who may be interested in reading and blurbing my novel, as well as targeting groups who may enjoy reading my book. She has the background and expertise to guide me through my debut book launch.

Cynsational Notes

See the Silver Phoenix Book Trailer.

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.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Author Interview: Sharon G. Flake on The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street

Sharon G. Flake on Sharon G. Flake: "I was born in Philadelphia in 1955 and am one of six children. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh in English, I went on to become a house parent, a foster care worker, and then a public relations representative and director at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I am the author of the following novels: The Skin I'm In (Disney Press, 1998); Money Hungry (Hyperion, 2001); Who Am I Without Him: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives (Hyperion, 2004); Bang! (Hyperion, 2005); and The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street (Hyperion, 2007, 2009). I reside in Pittsburgh and write for the most remarkable young people on the planet."

Note: The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street is now available in paperback from Hyperion.

What kind of young reader were you? Who were your favorite authors?

I loved television more than I loved reading, I hate to say, but I did read plenty of books. I'd sit in the tub reading, lay in the living room reading or outside on the steps. Once I borrowed a friend's book and ended up drying it in the oven after it ended up in the tub. Needless to say, the heat made a mess of the book, and I had to pay for it.

As a young person I loved to read Langston Hughes, and I also loved romantic novels, which during those days were pretty tame and low key which is why I guess most of my books have a bit of innocent romance in them.

Seventeen was one of my favorite novels. Although the characters didn't look like me, the girls and I had the same heart and desire for love and romance. It's what I love about books--everyone of every color and persuasion is invited to the party and encouraged to have a good time.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

Wow. I didn't write or know I had any writing talent in middle or high school. I majored in writing in college because there seemed to be so many other things that didn't suit me.

After I graduated college, a few friends and I formed a writing group that didn't last long, though the friendships are decades old. My friends showed me what was possible in the world of writing, while I was still scared and uncertain of myself. Because of Robin and Carla I wrote for a local magazine, got the cover stories for a B-level national woman's magazine, and kept at this writing thing. I also had an article in Essence Magazine many years ago and went on to win a contest in Aim Multicultural magazine as well as the August Wilson Short Story Contest. I won a scholarship and attended the Highlights for Children's Writing Workshop (go if you can; it's great) and was fortunate to have my first novel The Skin I'm In win the Coretta Scott King New Talent Award and come out during Disney's inaugural launch of Jump At The Sun.

What was the single best thing you did to improve your craft? What, if anything, do you wish you'd done differently?

I think learning to love rewriting is the single biggest thing. Once the Skin I'm In was accepted for publication, I got to see that rewriting is part of the game.

Before then I didn't like it much. Now I love it because my work gets better and better each time I rewrite--even before an editor sees it.

Could you tell us about your path to publication?

I had only sent out a few pieces prior to being published. Some were for non-fiction articles; others were children's books.

I remember a publisher in Washington wanted a book I had written about hair. It was text for a picture book. The publisher sent me a note saying he loved the book, but wanted me to make one small change. I got on my high horse and thought that if he loved, it than surely a bigger publishing house like Simon & Schuster or Clarion would love it even more. I never responded to the smaller house in Washington. I sent my manuscript to several larger houses.

Needless to say, the other houses didn't want anything to do with it. They didn't even suggest I fix or let me know why there were rejecting it--which is very common. I learned my lesson: don't look a gift horse in the mouth, and sometimes you are not as good as you think you are.

Could you update us on your back list, highlighting as you see fit?

The Skin I'm In is about a dark-skin girl who gets picked on because people don't like how she looks. With the help of a teacher and wise words from her deceased dad, she learns to love the skin she's in as well as her gift for writing. The book deals with self esteem and bullying. This remains my biggest seller.

Money Hungry--Raspberry Hill is thirteen and hungry for dough, but she won't do just anything to get it. Having been homeless once, she wants to make certain the streets never see her or her mom again, so she works hard to save money but must learn that money isn't everything and friends and family are really the most important things in life.

Begging for Change--Raspberry Hill is at it again, only this time her father returns and her mother is injured, so life feels more uncertain and fragile than ever for her. Family and friends and a new relationship with a boy from her past all help this young lady navigate life and treasure her personal values. The book deals with other issues as well, including father daughter relationships, biracial issues, romance and personal values. Raspberry and her friends are very popular with my readers--they love her and beg for a third book. Is one coming? Who knows? Perhaps.

Who Am I Without Him: Short Stories About Girls and the Boys in Their Lives. "Mookie in Love," "The Ugly One," "I like White Boys," and "Wanted A Thug," are just a few of the stories that enable girls and boys to sit around the same table or alone in their rooms and read about the challenging, romantic, funny and sometimes difficult road to relationships. Teachers and parents email me often about this novel, thanking me for giving them a vehicle to discuss relationships with the youth in their lives as well as with one another. Girlfriends have dumped their boyfriends because of this novel. Father's have read it with their daughters. And adults have found that, yes, young men will discuss relationships.

Bang! With gun violence rising, I wrote this book to let people see what happens when a family member, a child, is killed. The novel astonishes teachers and parents, with how it enables youth of all cultures to open up about their own lives and to examine their own behavior and their potential to solve many of societies problems. The novel is fast paced and hard hitting with school districts around the nation using it in classrooms to empower youth. The book examines issues around grief, art, family and their ability to help us heal, men, grief and pain, the role that animals play in our lives, and empowering youth through literature.

Congratulations on the success of The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street (Hyperion, 2007)! Could you tell us about it?

Queen Marie Rosseau is in the fifth grade. She's smart and pretty, and her parents own the apartment building she lives in.

Across the street lives Leroy, a new kid, who lives in the housing projects. Leroy is teased about how he dresses, but Queen's parents manage to see the royalty in him as well as their daughter. Queen will have no parts of that though, and is determined to prove that Leroy is not an African prince as he is telling everyone.

A mystical neighbor, a bully and a little humble pie help Queen to realize that being kind is a queen's responsibility as well.

Along the way, readers realize that princes and queens live in every neighborhood, that castles are great places for dreaming and solving riddles. Learning about Africa and exploring friendship make for great reading in a novel.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I visit my hometown a lot. My folks still live in North Philly, and I love to walk and explore when I'm there. So many houses in that neighborhood remind me of castles. I saw one in particular one day. I thought about it and wanted to write a book about a queen.

When I visit schools I ask young people to tell me about the kings and queens in their neighborhoods. I ask them about the castles there too.

Sometimes they look at me as if I've lost my mind; even kids in wealthy neighborhoods do that. But then they catch on--castles are everywhere if we look for them and don't expect them all to look the same.

During my talks, I've learned about a young man whose real grandfather was a king in Nigeria. Even his teacher didn't know that. I've heard about cats being the kings at home and sisters who were wonderful queens and some who were not.

One boy told me that he was a prince.

I asked him what he did that would help me to see that he was a prince.

He made breakfast for his mom in the mornings, he said.

What kind of king does that make you? I asked.

"A loyal king," he said.

Even his principal's heart melted.

He lived in North Philly. Sometimes I think people forget there are loyal kings living there too.

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

The timeline was short, about eight months. My long time editor had left, but Disney was nice enough to let her still work on the book with me. I also had an in-house editor. Neither one of us had experience with working with illustrators, so that was a challenge. I'm sure we drove the illustrator crazy. But we all learned a lot, I hope.

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

I had to do research, which I hadn't had to do up until then. There's a riddle in the book. I knew which clues I wanted to give, but they had to line up with a certain country, and so I had to read about this country and that one. I'd find that my clues went well with one country, only to get to the end of the riddle and find something that wasn't native to that land. So I'd tweek the riddle and start again, and end up someplace I didn't want to be. It went well in the end. It's my first and last riddle, I think.

So far, what is your favorite children's-YA book of 2009?

Fly Girl by by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam, 2009).

What do you do when you're not in the book world?

I line dance, read, visit my family in Philly, talk with my daughter and walk my dog, Pharaoh.

What can your fans look forward to next?

You Don't Even Know Me--short stories and poems about boys will be out in 2010. One young man gets married; one writes a love letter of sorts to his 'hood.

I am also working on a book about a girl who has a reading problem and desperately likes a boy who is disabled. The problem is he doesn't like her, and besides, she has other fish to fry like staying out of special ed, among others. It's my first book about middle class young people. I'm not sure of the pub date, perhaps next year as well.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Guest Blogger: Author Kathleen Duey on Her Twitter Novel: Russet

by Kathleen Duey

Writing a Twitter novel has given me back an artistic jolt I had almost forgotten: Raw Fear.

At a conference, I heard myself giving advice that I hadn't followed in a long time.

I wasn't experimenting with anything that scared me to death anymore.

That night, I inventoried the unbooked characters in my skull and noticed Russet.

I knew he was running from something, that he was scared, and that I was drawn to him. That was all.

I thought about giving him a word-file journal, channeling him every morning before I began writing my real projects.

Then I considered doing it publicly, on a blog.

Oh? That made me sit up straighter. But I had so little time—so many other projects already in progress. Blog entries take hours for me. I revise compulsively, like most writers.

That evening, I got an email notification that someone was following me on Twitter.

Following what? I had created an account over a year before, but hadn't done anything with it. Not a single tweet. It took me all morning to remember the password and log in.

I tweeted a few times, enjoying that tiny-burst 140 letters/spaces/limit, and then it hit me.

A novel. A whole novel in Russet's voice, written in Twitter's 140 (or less) character bursts.

In public. Real time. No revision.

And when I thought about all the ways it could blow up in my face I felt almost sick. Bingo, eureka, perfect. I was scared to death.

Still am. But it has been worth it.

I start with Russet every morning: he tweets at, and then I update the full text on his blog. Only then do I go to work.

Scared Scars (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 2) is finished and will be out in August. I am writing the last book of the Resurrection of Magic trilogy.

Next up: a YA collaboration called STAYS, The Faeries Promise books for second-to-third graders, A Virgin's Blood, then Free Rat.

And I come to that work, wide, wide awake in a way that makes me remember how much I love writing. For itself. For the scary, exposed, amazing joy of it.

Read a Cynsations interview with Kathleen.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers' Conference Fourteenth Annual Event to Feature Kathi Appelt and An Na

The Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers' Conference Fourteenth Annual Event will be held from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17.

Vermont College of Fine Arts, home of the nationally acclaimed MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program, has since 1996 offered a summer conference dedicated to advanced writers seeking to recharge, reconnect, and nourish their creative development.

The award-winning YA faculty for summer 2009 are Newbery Honor author and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Printz Winner and National Book Award Finalist An Na.

Kathi Appelt is the author of more than thirty books for children and young adults.

My Father's Summers (Henry Holt, 2004) won the Paterson Poetry Prize for Young Adult Literature and was selected as a NYPL Book for the Teen Age as well as an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. In addition, it was a finalist for the PEN USA Award for Children's Literature.

Kathi's first novel, The Underneath, was recently named a finalist for The National Book Award and an ALA Newbery Honor Book. She is on the faculty of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She and her husband Ken live in College Station, Texas.

An Na was born in Korea and grew up in San Diego. Her first novel, A Step From Heaven (Front Street, 2001), was a National Book Award Finalist and received the Michael L. Printz Award and the 2002 Children's Book Award in Young Adult Fiction from the International Reading Association. It was also named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Wait For Me (Putnam, 2006) was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and Junior Library Guild Selection. Her third novel, The Fold (Putnam), was released in spring 2008.

An Na is a graduate of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program at VCFA and teaches in The Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program of Pine Manor College.

The Postgraduate Conference is open to all experienced writers, with graduate degrees or equivalent backgrounds.

Process and craft are emphasized through a unique structure based on intimate workshops limited to five-seven participants, which include individual consultations with faculty, readings by faculty and participants, issues forums and master classes—all in a lively, supportive community of writers who share meals, ideas, and social activities in scenic Vermont.

The historic campus of Vermont College of Fine Arts is host to the annual gathering. Along with the rich menu of conference events, participants will enjoy the amenities of downtown Montpelier—the nation's smallest and arguably most charming state capitol—just a few minutes' walk from the college, as well as the beauty and recreational opportunities of the surrounding countryside.

Cynsational Notes

Additional faculty will be teaching writing for adults in the novel, short story, creative nonfiction, poetry, and poetry manuscript.

Contact Ellen Lesser, conference director, with any questions.

ASPCA® Announces 2008 Henry Bergh Children’s-YA Book Award Winners

Houghton Mifflin to Receive
ASPCARoger Caras Achievement Award

at 2009 American Library Association Conference

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has announced the winners of the 2008 ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Awards.

Named in honor of ASPCA founder Henry Bergh, the annual awards recognize books based on their exemplary handling of subject matter pertaining to animals and the environment. The winning authors will be honored at a ceremony at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago on July 13.

Houghton Mifflin will also be awarded the 2008 Roger Caras Achievement Award for children’s literature at the upcoming awards. Named in honor of past ASPCA President Roger Caras, the award honors an outstanding individual or organization that has inspired children and made a contribution to the animal community through literature, actions or other means.

"Nothing is more essential to the future of America's pets than educating our children about animal awareness," says ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres. "Through honoring both an outstanding publisher and the works of several distinguished authors, the ASPCA is able to continue its quest to create a more humane nation.”

This year's nine award winners and honorees covered seven categories.

Winners of the 2008 ASPCA® Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award are:

Non-Fiction Companion Animals Award

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery, illustrated by Jean Cassels
Walker & Company

Non-Fiction Companion Animals Honor

by Sarah Whitehead

Non-Fiction Environment and Ecology

by Jim Arnosky
Sterling Publishing

Non-Fiction Humane Heroes

by Pam Kaster
Louisiana State University Press

Fiction Companion Animals Award

by Jeanne Prevost
Gryphon Press

Fiction Companion Animals Honor

by Jan Zita Grover
Gryphon Press

Fiction Environment and Ecology

The Wolves are Back
by Jean Craighead George
Dutton Children’s Books

Fiction Humane Heroes

by Jim Arnosky
G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Young Adult

by Rosa Jordan

To qualify for consideration for the ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Awards, the following criteria must be met:

* Books must be written in English;

* Books must be written for an audience of children up to and including the age of 12 (age 17 for the young adult award);

* Books must be works of fiction, non-fiction, or collections of short stories, essays, or poetry, and;

* Books must be published between January and December of the previous year.

Self-published books are eligible, provided that the author/publisher also publishes titles by other authors.

About the ASPCA®

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first humane organization established in the Americas, and today has more than one million supporters throughout North America. A 501 [c] [3] not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.

The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in animal-assisted therapy, animal behavior, animal poison control, anti-cruelty, humane education, legislative services, and shelter outreach. The New York City headquarters houses a full-service, accredited animal hospital, adoption center, and mobile clinic outreach program.

The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York’s animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet. For more information, please visit

Bridget Zinn Auction: Bid for Manuscript Critiques, Promotional Services, Signed Books & More

Bridget Zinn Auction: will take place between now and 12 a.m. PST May 31. Bid to win such exciting items as:

-a 10-page manuscript critique by Newbery honor author Cynthia Lord;

-a 20-page YA or mystery manuscript critique by April Henry;

-a 20-page manuscript critique by YA-middle grade author Amanda Marrone (Winners will have a choice to receive copy of Uninvited, a 2009 ALA Popular Paperback and Quick Pick nominee, Revealers, or an advanced readers copy of Devoured, which is due out in September.);

-a full-length middle-grade manuscript critique by author Jody Feldman ("This critique will include big-picture thoughts and limited line-editing suggestions.");

- a manuscript critique(s) by author Kate Messner ("two picture books or the first 30 pages of a longer work. She'll throw in an ARC of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, too.");

-a custom promotional audio program directed and produced by Mark Blevis of Just One More Book! ("Do you want to create an audio program to reach your audience? Perhaps you want to release a fun monologue or a short reading from your book on the Internet. Mark will help you create a single 10-minute audio production (podcast or not) including audio engineering and associated creative direction/consultation time.");

-a podcast by Heidi Estrin from The Book of Life ("The usual focus of the show is Judaica (our home base is a synagogue library in Boca Raton), but...we'll waive that restriction.");

-a marketing package from Shelli Johannes-Wells (year to redeem)("Auction winner receives 2 hours of marketing consultation plus the design and copy on one of the following items: book-marker, business card, or postcard. If you do not need any of these items, you may trade it in for additional marketing consultation on a selling query letter/synopsis.");

-a "social media" plan by Greg Pincus ("Greg Pincus has 'social networked' his way into the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a two book deal. He's sold poetry from his blog and given seminars based on his experiences. And he’s also made great friends and had a lot of fun in the process!");

-original "Babymouse" art by Matthew Holm ("This piece of art, featuring Babymouse in a Peter Pan fantasy, was created by Babymouse author/illustrator Matthew Holm especially for Bridget's auction!);

-signed books (like Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta, Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer, The Magic Thief and The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas, Babymouse: The Musical by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (and character name! "Have you ever wanted to be named for a character in a book. Now is your opportunity!") The Battle of the Labrynth (Book Four of the Percy Jackson and The Olympians Series by Rick Riordan (first edition) Don't Die Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton, Sing-Along Song by Joann Early Macken (illustrated by LeUyen Pham), Flip Float Fly: Seeds on the Move by Joann Early Macken (illustrated by Pam Paparone), Far From You by Lisa Schroeder)) Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee);

-a handcrafted blank book by Sarah Stevenson ("This 6 by 9 inch book is bound using a Japanese stab binding technique, specifically the tortoise shell binding. Inside the lotus print cover is 30 pages of Strathmore charcoal paper.");

-a writer's goody bag designed by Kim C. Baker ("I sewed a few bits of matching fabric to a Moleskine notebook and threw in some pens. Then I made a little tissue holder, because writers are always weeping tears of joy when they finish a draft, or find the perfect phrase, or sell a manuscript. I imagine. That stuff never happens to me, but if it does- I will need tissue. Writers also need silliness and sustenance, so there are some stickers and Fran’s chocolates.");

-sunflower root doll ("Handcrafted 2 1/2 inch Sunflower Root Child Doll by Farida Dowler. The Sunflower Doll is made out of wool, wool/rayon and cotton, and has embroidered details of stalks, leaves and ladybugs.");

-a silver "write" bracelet by Laura Ludwig Hamor ("Solid silver with adjustable black leather cord.");

-a handcrafted baby quilt ("...measuring 32″x38″. This handmade quilt is 100% cotton top and backing with natural cotton batting inside. It is machine pieced and machine quilted with hand sewing on the binding. It is machine washable and very durable.");

-three-night stay in Torrey, Utah ("...a comfortable guest house with queen bed, sitting area, refrigerator, microwave, television(gets only local stations). Borders the National Forest with a stream at the bottom of the hill. Capitol Reef National Park entrance is 7 miles away and the property borders the park. Scenic HWY 12 and Bryce Canyon National Park are close by.");

-and more to come!

Cynsational Notes

From April Henry:

Three things happened to Bridget in February:

1. She got an agent for her young adult novel.

2. She got married.

3. She found out she had Stage Four colon cancer.

...Even when you have insurance that covers most things, it doesn’t cover everything.

Learn more about Bridget Zinn.

From the site: "If you are an artist, do you have a piece of art you could donate? If you are an author, could you donate a signed copy of your book? Or even a critique of the first 10 or 20 pages of someone's work in progress? Do you have anything else you could contribute? If so, please email Jone MacCulloch" Note: bloggers and social networkers may also want to help spread the word about the auction.

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!
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