Friday, June 19, 2009

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win a copy of Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker (Harper, 2009)! From the promotional copy:

This is the story of Quinn, an indie rock girl who came out to Austin, Texas for a music internship.

She also plans to spend long, lazy days in the sun at outdoor concerts--and to meet a hot musician or two. Instead, she's stuck rooming with her sorority brainwashed cousin, who now willingly goes by the name 'Party Penny.' Their personalities clash, big time.

But Sebastian, a gorgeous DJ, definitely makes up for it. Sebastian has it all: looks, charm, and great taste in music. So why can't Quinn keep her mind off Penny's friend cute, All-American Russ and his Texas twang?

One thing's certain: Quinn's in for a summer she'll never forget!

To enter, simply email me (scroll and click the envelope) with your snail mail address and include "Lovestruck Summer" in the subject line. To be entered twice, ask me any question about Cynsations or my main website. Deadline: June 30.

Read an interview with Melissa by Emily at BookKids Recommends: From the Crazy Folks at BookPeople. Peek:

"BP: Of course, we here at BookPeople love our hometown, but what made an East Coast gal like you choose Austin as the setting for a summer romance?

"MW: How could I NOT set a summer romance in a town with awesome live music, gorgeous bodies of water, sweat-trickling heat, smiling Texas boys, bridge-living bats and live music?! It was a given as soon as I stepped off the plane."

More News & Giveaways

Check out this trailer for David Small's graphic novel memoir, Stitches. Available Sept. 8 from W.W. Norton & Co. Source: A Fuse #8 Production.

Guest Column: The Kindle—Igniting the Book Business Amazon's Kindle has raised issues for book publishers, such as appropriate pricing options for e-books. By Peter Olson and Bharat N. Anand from Book Business. Peek: "E-book royalties per book should not be reduced in absolute dollar terms below p-book levels in order to provide the necessary incentive for creative energies that could otherwise be directed elsewhere (the current royalty schemes proposed by publishers would unfairly give authors only a percentage of net revenues)." Source: Nathan Bransford. Note to authors: Having a good agent is more important than ever. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Characters by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog. Peek: "Of course you will discover different levels of yearning as you work through drafts but knowing early what your character primarily yearns for can help you discover a lot." See also Brian on Writing Destinations. Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Books with Bite Trailer from MPL Teen Space (doesn't include this spring's releases, but still a comprehensive highlight of vampire-themed YA novels). Note: 10+ minutes.

The Nutcases by Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid. Peek: "'Whether they appear as your overbearing mother, your manic boss, your needy friend, or your stubborn spouse,' says Cameron, 'the crazymakers in your life share certain destructive patterns that make them poisonous for any sustained creative work.'" See also Get Your Fear Shot.

Two Lakes and a Dairy Maid Parking Lot by Sarah Sullivan at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "I'm going to talk about how the details of setting enhance a work of fiction." Note: first entry in a week-long series of posts; don't miss Sarah's interview with Fran Cannon Slayton, author of When the Whistle Blows (Philomel, 2009). See also an interview with Fran from Janet Fox at Through the Tollbooth.

Wondrous Read Contest: enter to win an autographed copy of Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins, 2008) by commenting on Lee A. Verday's blog. Then sign up for "Get the Goods" on Jessica Verday's site, where everyone wins. Peek: "Want to keep up-to-date on the latest news about Jessica Verday and The Hollow (Simon Pulse, 2009)? Sign up here, and you'll get a Goodies package sent straight to your door!" Read a Cynsations interview with Lesley.

Children's writer and Vermont College graduate Frances Lee Hall blogs about her recent trip back to the newly restored Angel Island Immigration Station on San Francisco Bay, the setting and inspiration for her middle grade historical novel manuscript, "Paper Son." Complete with video clips! See part one and two. Peek: "...a construction worker asked me to leave. How ironic that I was being kicked out of the immigration station, when my ancestors, including my father as a young boy, were held there for days, weeks or even months, almost 100 years ago."

A Tweet Treat? by Karen Springen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Are author-editor tweet-fests the marketing wave of the future? Perhaps. After all, the price is right. The Q & A was completely free to publicize, produce and to read. Mercado and Marino simply spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and message boards." Read a Cynsations interview with Nancy Mercado of Roaring Brook Press.

Vermont College of Fine Arts: a new, totally remodeled website. Learn more about the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Read an interview with faculty chair Sharon Darrow about the program.

Marvelous Marketer: Jon Bard (Children's Book Insider/CBI clubhouse) from Shelli at Market My Words: Rantings and ravings on how authors can better market their books to kids. Peek: "Target niches that might have an affinity for your book. Let's say one of your main characters is a cheerleader. Go to the top online cheerleading sites, blogs & e-zines and offer to do interviews about your book." Read a Cynsations interview with Jon.

Interview with E. Lockhart from Writer Musings: A place to ponder books, as well as how the words get on the page. Peek: "I wanted to write about pranks and urban exploration -- and I also wanted to write about the old boys' network, which still exists and is incredibly powerful, even in this supposedly post-feminist age." See below for an opportunity to win books by E. from Writers Musings. Read a Cynsations interview with E. Lockhart.

Social Networking for Authors and Illustrators: an online class from Susan Taylor Brown. Two upcoming sessions: June 22 to June 26 and July 13 to July 17. Cost $75. See more information. Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

Manuscript Critiques by Tracy Marchini from My VerboCity. Peek: "Believe it or not, it's actually kind of intimidating to sit down with an author face-to-face and analyze their manuscript. You know that they've put their heart and soul into what they've just handed you." Read a Cynsations interview with Tracy.

Nonfiction Now: One Publisher's (Holiday House) View from Loreen Leddy at I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: "Publishers, authors and illustrators of nonfiction, and booksellers now need to explain to consumers that books can offer things that the World Wide Web does not." See also How to Find Your Way In to a Story by Tanya Lee Stone. Read a Cynsations interview with Tanya.

Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, lllusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical: a recommendation from Charlotte at Charlotte's Library: Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Children and Teenagers. Peek: "When the difference that lead to someone becoming a sideshow are combined with magic, mystery, and mayhem, there's a lot of room for great writers of fantastical fiction to make gripping and memorable stories. Which is what happens here." Note: Sideshow is edited by Deborah Noyes and will be released next month from Candlewick Press; the anthology includes my short story, "Cat Calls." Read a Cynsations interview with Deborah.

The New Literal Mind by Elizabeth Bluemle from ShelfTalker: A Children's Bookseller's Blog. Peek: "Whatever happened to imagination, metaphor, curiosity? To encountering the unexpected, or trying on new lives through the windows of a book?" Note: Of late, I've noticed this same trend in working with teenagers, too. See also Elizabeth on To Market, To Market, a discussion of which promotional materials are most useful for booksellers. Peek: "Use way more packaging than you need. Large boxes with few galleys and lots of pretty packing material come off as wasteful and needlessly expensive. In addition, a lot of fancy packaging gets banged up in the mail, so it often doesn't reach your booksellers in great condition."

A Writer at Home: Sharon Creech from Kimberly Willis Holt at A Pen and A Nest. Peek: "I work best with a view of trees (the lake is a bonus) and with my ‘stuff’ around me: favorite pens, pencils, paper, reference books, family photos, filing cabinets, computer (iMac), printer, and doo-dads (a few small shells, several miniature wood and stone turtles, a George Washington bust, a donkey, stone paperweights, etc.)" Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Cynical optimism, or vice versa by Sara Ryan. Peek: "I'm not saying that the existence of events like Anti-Prom in New York, or Mr. and Ms. Junior Gay Pride here in Portland, means that violent bigots will vanish from the earth. (I do have that cynical side.) But having the events, and talking about them, and making sure everyone knows how incredibly cool they are — that’s one way to create change." Source: Gwenda Bond. Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Take the Dare! Show You Care! from Cynthea Liu's launch party. Check out the auction, which includes newly listed editor critiques from Kristin Daly of Balzar & Bray/HarperCollins, Martha Mihalick of Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Andrea Welch of Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda, and freelance editor Stacy Whitman. Notes: see also additional opportunities to bid with more editors, agents, and authors; proceeds to benefit Tulakes Elementary, a Title I school in Oklahoma City. Read Cynsations interviews with Cynthea, Andrew, and Stacy.

GLBT Month - Alex Sanchez Guest Blog Part 2 from Book Chic. Peek: "Homophobia hurts everybody, not just gay kids." Here's part 1 for those who missed it. Note: read an excerpt of Alex's latest novel, Bait (Simon & Schuster, June 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Alex.

Parenthetic Comma Phrases, Anyone? by Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: "A writer to whom I pointed this out protested that editors want explanation, since books by "us" (i.e., writers of color) are often written for a diverse audience, all of whom may not be familiar with the culture in question. That's true enough, but we have so many rich and wonderful choices." Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

Guest Blogger: Jean Reynolds, Some Observations on the History and Future of Informational Books, Part 1 and Part 2 from Vicki Cobb at I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: "Jean Reynolds is a veteran children's nonfiction editor. She founded Millbrook Press and was its publisher for 15 years. It was sold to Lerner in 2006. She has also been Chair of the Children's Book Council and served on the Board of Governors of Higher Education in Connecticut."

Austin News & Events

Austin's Delacorte Dames & Dude Talk YA Literature by Donna Bowman Bratton at Simply Donna. Peek: "There are many challenges in writing for teens. [Jennifer] Ziegler points to the raw emotions teenagers have trouble dealing with. As she says, the emotional 'pendulum doesn't swing quite so far for adults. For that reason, YA novels often have deeper emotional content.'" See also True Friends: DDD Panel Discussion from Shana Burg and Delacorte Dames and Dude Discuss Details, Dreams, Duties, Divisions, and Dealing with Disrespect from Jennifer Ziegler and Things That Make Me Happy from Varian Johnson.

Here are some pics from the event. First up is Jennifer with Delacorte Dude Varian Johnson.

And here's Varian, Jenny, and Shana with April Lurie, Margo Rabb, and moderator Sarah Bird. DDD devotees should also make sure to check out a gorgeous shot of the fab five at April Afloat.

"How To Have a Successful Book Event" led by BookPeople events coordinators, Alison Nihlean and Mandy Brooks will be at 11 a.m. June 20 at BookPeople in Austin. Peek: "It's a collaborative effort that when performed creatively and appropriately, fabulous events happen. They'll share success stories and not so success stories about their years as BookPeople's event organizers, then the floor will be open for questions." Note: sponsored by Austin SCBWI.

Celebrate the Day-Glo Brothers with debut author Chris Barton at 1 p.m. July 11 at BookPeople in Austin. See Review of the Day: The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton from Elizabeth Bird at A Fuse #8 Production. Peek: "When the book you hold in your hands is all about the discovery of a certain kind of color, it's very important to get the right design feel right from the start. Open this book."

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: " amazing tale of perseverance, hard work, and how one's dreams can take one on different and unexpectedly satisfying paths."

Highlights of the Week

Highlights included lunch at Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill on Sixth Street with College Station school librarian and children's author Debbie Leland. Debbie is a rare self-publishing success story. Her books include Aggie Goose Rhymes, The Jalapeño Man, The Firegator, The Little Prairie Hen, and Daddy's Love. The Little Prairie Hen won the 2005 Texas Golden Spur Award for Children's Literature, given annually by the Texas State Reading Association. Debbie is highly recommended for school visits and other events.

Sparkling debut author Kekla Magoon is also in town this week. We had breakfast at Juan in a Million on East Cesar Chavez St. Note: the restaurant was recently featured on "Man versus Food."

Kekla is the author of The Rock and The River (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2009). In a starred review, Booklist says, "True to the young teen's viewpoint, this taut, eloquent first novel will make readers feel what it was like to be young, black and militant 40 years ago. important title for YA American History classes."

Kekla is offering joint school visit programs with Bethany Hegedus, author of Between Us Baxters (WestSide, 2009). Peek: "Our books span the civil rights era, from the time of segregation in the south to the emergence of black power movements in the urban north. Our interactive workshop can be tailored to the needs of your class, including historical themes, video clips, readers' theater, discussion, writing exercises, handouts, and follow-up classroom activities and teacher resource material." For information on rates, scheduling, etc. contact

More Personally

I'm busy revising Blessed, (Candlewick, 2011), which will crossover the casts of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), picking up where Tantalize leaves off.

Anastasia Suen re-runs an article I wrote a few years back, "How to Throw a Launch Book Party," which draws on my experience from the Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) launch.

Giveaway Updates

Enter to win a bookplate-autographed copy of the new release, Bones of Faerie (Random House, 2009), and traditionally autographed copies of both Secret of the Three Treasures (Holiday House, 2006)(hard copy) and Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2006)(paperback) from Cynsations. Note: Gothic includes Janni's short story "Stone Tower."

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Janni Lee Simner" in the subject line. Deadline: June 30! Read a Cynsations interview with Janni.

Enter to win your choice of an Eternal T-shirt, hat, or mug from Cynsations! Note: various designs and colors are available. See all of the choices!

You may also win an ARC of one of three YA paranormal books: Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Hyperion, 2008); Wake by Lisa McMann (Simon Pulse, 2008); or Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins, 2008)!

Here's how to enter:

(1) visit this link: Eternal Book Trailer by Naomi Bates at YA Books and More. Watch the trailer!

(2) (a) Email me (scroll to click envelope); (b) Type "Eternal trailer giveaway" in the subject line; (c) Offer your cheers about the trailer! What do you love about it? What questions does it raise in your mind? (d) Indicate your preferred T-shirt style, size, and color; (e) Rank the ARCs in the order of preference. Note: if you already have one or more of the books, you can mention that too. You are also encouraged to share your cheers in a comment at this post on Naomi's blog, though this is not required to enter. It's just friendly.

Deadline: midnight central time June 30!

Winners of the signed Eternal bookmarks giveaway were Jennifer at the Natrona County Public Library in Casper, Wyoming and Deena at Brighton Memorial Library in Rochester, New York. Bonus sets went out this week to Kathy at the Defiance (Ohio) Public Library, Laini at Culpeper Public Library in Virginia, and Buffy at Creekview High School in Georgia.

The Student Author Book Publishing Program

From Debbie Gonzales

The Student Author Book Publishing Program, presented by author/educator Debbie Gonzales, is a unique, program-specific, in-school writing workshop in which students experience all stages of the publishing process and have their work published in a hard-bound book, just like a real author.

Here’s how it works. Debbie partners with teachers to decide upon the nature of the publication. Teachers have the flexibility to develop the genre focus, integrate the book project into a specific curriculum unit, or inspire students to brainstorm the theme of the class book.

At the onset of the project, Debbie comes to campus to present an age-appropriate, genre-specific Writer’s Workshop.

Over a period of time, the students' best writing samples and illustrations are collected and submitted to Debbie by the teacher.

Debbie then returns to campus for a scheduled One-On-One Manuscript Review with each of the student authors.

After final edits are made, illustrations are perfected, proofs are signed off, and the publication date is determined the manuscript is submitted to a real publisher.

Once the books are printed, students celebrate their accomplishment by participating in a Book Launch. Family and friends are encouraged to attend this grand event as the young authors read from their published work.

To schedule a consultation or request an informational brochure, email Debbie at or phone her at 512.416.6050.

Cynsational Notes

Read an author interview with Debbie Gonzales.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Voice: Debbie Gonzales on New Zealand's Gilt Edge Readers Series

Debbie Gonzales is the first-time author of Birthday Skates, Charlie the Sleepy Bee, Kindness, Plunk! Dunk!, Raspberry Fizz, and Stormy, all to be published as part of the New Zealand's Gilt Edge Readers Series, which will be released in winter 2009.

The books in the Gilt Edge Readers Series offer research-based multifaceted reading instruction to all children learning to read. While the series offers teachers the opportunity to provide explicit instruction in decoding, the texts are written with natural language which supports vocabulary development, fluency practice, comprehension instruction, and--most importantly--a love of reading.

Was there one writing workshop or conference that led to an “ah-ha!” moment in your craft?

I've had many, many marvelous "ah-ha!" moments in this writing journey, but there are two particular experiences that have been life-altering.

The first happened in 2001, when I attended an annual creative writing conference sponsored by Florida International University. I will never forget the mixed emotions I felt while there--complete exhilaration and utter despair.

You see, I've always dreamed of being an author. As a child, I remember stroking an author's name printed on a book cover. Oh, how I wished that my name would be printed on a book like that. However, during that first FIU conference, I was shocked into awareness: making this author dream become a reality was going to be hard, hard work.

At the FIU conference, I met some excellent and highly prominent writers whom I now consider to be mentors and friends, people who have generously shared their support, criticism, and influence with me over the years: John Dufrense, Lynne Barrett, Brewster Robinson, Madeleine Blais, Denise Duhamel, and Connie Mae Fowler, to name a few.

I continue to learn so very much from these folks. Simple, yet profound things. Good writers read. There is method to the madness of plotting. Approach the act of query submission with tenacity. The first page of a novel tells the entire story. Poetry is power.

Connie Mae Fowler taught me that, though the writing life can be grand, the real magic lies in privately honing the skills of the craft.

And Madeleine Blais told me that I was a writer worthy of pursuing a master's degree. Me? Wow.

I wrote two pieces under FIU's inspiration that mustered up a little recognition. I return to Florida and attend this conference every year, a homecoming of sorts. I love these people.

Madeleine's words changed the direction of my life. As a direct result of Maddie’s (and my beloved husband John’s) encouragement, I've gone on to earn an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Connie's words stayed with me throughout the two rigorous years of study, and I mean rigorous.

First and foremost, I came to Vermont to hone my skills and to learn all that I could about the craft. That's where the magic lies, remember?

I literally sat at the feet of VCFA’s masterful faculty and absorbed all the wisdom I could from them. I was blessed with brilliant semester advisors who accepted no less than my very best: Jane Kurtz, Uma Krishnaswami, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Sarah Ellis. These excellent and highly-prominent authors have become my mentors and friends, as well.

I'm still quite active in the VCFA writing community, serving as a graduate assistant and participating in alumni activities. I love those people, too.

And now I live in awesome Austin, Texas, smack-dab in the middle of an amazing children’s writing community. Today my life is constant series of “ah-ha!” moments. Lucky, lucky me.

As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about teaching has been a blessing to your writing?

I would say that everything about being a teacher has blessed my writing. I have affectionately referred to my over thirty years in education as my "adventures in teaching."

I've worked with high-schoolers to preschoolers, wealthy and poor, brilliant and disadvantaged, and had a blast with it all. As a teacher, a person walks shoulder to shoulder with a child, privileged to witness all the angst and elation involved in simply being a kid. And talk about characters! There is a plethora of them just skulking down the hallway!

I am trained to teach with the Montessori Method of learning, which is solidly founded on observation of the child. It is a simple, yet highly complex way to teach. In a nutshell, Montessorians are trained to closely consider the physical, intellectual, and social needs of a student and then design an individualized course of study for them.

Isn't that what we do as writers when we create characters? Don’t we wait and watch, pondering just what direction the character will go? Then, don't we orchestrate settings and scenes that compliment or conflict with their character traits?

Years ago I worked with kids that were deemed "troubled" or "at-risk" at a marvelous place called Dallas Can Academy. There I taught gang members how to reduce fractions. I helped desperate unwed mothers study for their GED. And there I learned just how a little bit encouragement can ignite a soul. Yes, I gleaned gobs of goodies for my writing bag of tricks in that place.

My middle-grade novel manuscript "Alien All-Stars" was inspired by a student's response to writing prompt. In class, I dramatically described a dark and stormy night.

"You are all alone wearing your jammies," I said. "And behold! A spaceship lands right in the middle of your backyard! What happened next?"

One of my students, an extremely shy fourth grader, came up with an incredible tale, complete with back-story! He cast himself as the protagonist, and rightly so. Earlier in the day, the protagonist had clobbered a baseball so high in the sky that no one could find it. The alien had come to return the ball. From that moment on, the alien and the boy became best friends.

Though the plot line of my novel differs from my student’s clever story, the theme of true friendship resonates throughout.

The role of teacher has totally prepared me for the early-readers I've written for Giltedge. Nothing is more exciting to a teacher than the moment when a child discovers that they can read! All that laborious sounding out of letters and struggle to blend them together to form words has finally paid off.

As a teacher, you want to fan that flame of enthusiasm by offering them interesting books that both challenge and delight the reader. They need stories that are alive and engage them, stories that they'll return to time and time again.

The Montessori mantra for this sort of reading practice is "repetition equals mastery." Novice readers need characters that they can emotionally connect with, settings that are believable, and syntax that respects their need for well-written literature. That is just what the books in the Gilt Edge Readers Series do.

How did you go about identifying your editor?

Actually an excellent illustrator, Brandi Lyons, told me about New Zealand's Giltedge Publishing. She explained the book series's concept and thought I might be interested in working on the project. I sent Kate McFlinn an email. She asked for a story. After a few rewrites and edits, Plunk! Dunk!--a book about overcoming the fear of learning how to swim--was born. Since then I've written five more titles for Giltedge and have a few others in the works.

Yes, I have been completely impressed by the books in the Gilt Edge Readers series that Joy Allcock and Kate have edited. These ladies insist upon excellence. Their early readers possess essential literary elements--age-appropriate and compelling stories, a dynamic change in the protagonist's character, situations and settings that emotionally identifiable to the novice reader, as well as surprising plot twists.

Their teaching guides are academically sound, lively, and creative. They illustrate how to best instruct the skills of phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. Techniques such as acting out plays or participating in reader's theatre are employed to assure learning how to read continues to be an entertaining process.

And the illustrations are superb! For instance, in my book Raspberry Fizz, illustrator Robin Kerr created a little red bird with a story line of its own. I can just imagine a young reader searching the page for that tiny feathered friend, delighting in its role in the story. The concept was Robin’s doing and I love it!

The way the series works is that an entire story is written around a particular sound. It is critical that the sound is repeated throughout the story in a non-didactic or redundant manner, that it almost invisible, thus allowing the story line to be the central focus.

For example, the long ‘e’ sound is the focus of my book Charlie, the Sleepy Bee. There are number of confusing letter combinations that make the long ‘e’ sound. For example there is the ‘ie’ in Charlie, or ‘ee’ in bee, or even ‘e’ in regal. Yikes! This is like a very bad joke to a new reader. The reading rules keep changing! How can the beginner ever remember all of this?

The answer to that question is by practicing the act of reading. The solution to the problem of getting a novice reader to practice is to give them quality learning material that they willingly reread over and over again. The Gilt Edge Readers Series books do just that. I am proud to be a part of this important project.

Along with writing these early readers for Gilt Edge, I continue to write for the middle-grade audience. I have two newly completed novels that need a home, one is "Alien All-Stars," which I mentioned earlier, and the other is "Bear Mountain," a historical fiction action/nature story set in the Pacific Northwest. My current project is another middle-grade historical fiction piece entitled "Whistle Punk," set in a 1930's logging camp.

The Washington DCJCC Now Accepting Submissions for 2009 Sugarman Award

The Washington DCJCC is now accepting submissions for the 2009 Sugarman Award.

The Sugarman Award was established in 1994 by Joan Sugarman to help thank, encourage and inspire writers and illustrators of Jewish children's literature. Every other year a monetary award is presented for best Jewish children's book. The presentation to the winner will take place during the Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center in Fall 2009.

Award Guidelines

1. Books published in the United States for use by children (3-16 years of age), between Oct. 1, 2008 and Oct. 1, 2009. Self-published books are not eligible.

2. An applicant must live in the United States. Applicants need not identify as Jewish.

3. Submissions may include picture books, fiction, and nonfiction.

4. Books should present a Judaic perspective or include Jewish characters, worthy of emulation and reflecting our Jewish heritage in an honest and meaningful way.

5. The writing must accurately reflect Jewish concepts, trends, traditions, experiences, characters, settings, conflicts, and current mores, either in America or elsewhere and be done with integrity, style and quality creating living characters or delineating accurate concepts understandable by a child reader.

If you would like to submit a book for consideration, please send three copies of each book, a $25 entry fee, and the completed entry form to:

Sugarman Award
Attn: Margalit Rosenthal
1529 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Note: All submissions must be received no later than Aug. 1, 2009.

For additional guidelines and to download an entry form, visit the official website.

About The Washington DCJCC

The Washington DCJCC works to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity, heritage, tradition and values through a wide variety of social, cultural, recreational and educational programs and services. The 16th Street J is committed to welcoming everyone in the community; membership and all activities are open to all. The Washington DCJCC is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and a designated agency of the United Way.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Voice: Danielle Joseph on Shrinking Violet

Danielle Joseph is the first-time author of Shrinking Violet (MTV/Pocket Books, 2009). From the promotional copy:

High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class.

But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out—doing mock broadcasts for Miami’s hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T—and to everyone’s shock, she’s a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ’s awesome taste in music.

But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest—and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize—Sweet T’s dream could turn into Tere’s worst nightmare...

Could you tell us the story of "the call" or "the email" when you found out that your book had sold? How did you react? How did you celebrate?

Like many writers, I dreamed of getting "the call" for a few years. Would I be home when my agent called? If not, would she try my cell? Would it come when my kids were in the middle of an argument or would they be quietly playing and then the sound of the glorious phone would break the silence?

When I actually got an offer on Shrinking Violet I couldn't have been farther away from my home in Florida. I was visiting my sick grandmother in Cape Town, South Africa. I randomly checked my email one day, and there it was. But since I had been waiting for the actual call for so long, I decided to phone my agent the next day.

So basically, I was the one that made "the call," and it was a wonderful feeling! I celebrated by going to the beach with my family, and my sons made me a "book cake" in the sand!

And the best thing was that my grandmother, an avid reader, lived long enough to hear that my book would be coming out the following year.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you find the voice of your first person protagonist? Did you do character exercises? Did you make an effort to listen to how young people talk? Did you simply free your inner kid or adolescent? And, if it seemed to come by magic, how would you suggest others tap into that power in their own writing?

In college, I studied creative writing and immediately felt at home in my children's writing class. I just started writing in the voice of a teen without really giving it much thought. It felt very natural to me.

I am the oldest of five siblings (my youngest sister is now a senior in high school), so I really haven't totally left that world yet. I like to watch teen movies, listen to a lot of the same music as my youngest sister, and have not graduated to "old lady" clothing yet! I have many memories from my teen years, and we go through so much as adolescents that I'm constantly pulling stories and situations out of that "memory box."

For people that are trying to find their "teen voice" I would suggest that they talk and listen to teens—go to high schools, the mall, even listen to how they interact with each other at Starbucks or other local hangouts. Writers can also watch TV shows that feature teen characters, read teen magazines, and of course, read a lot of YA!

The biggest mistake people make is forcing teen lingo on their character, but what makes an authentic teen voice is not only what you say, but how you say it.

Teens have different fears, goals, and ways of going about things than adults do, and that is what a writer has to tap into in order to make a believable teen character.

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, June 16, 2009

Author Interview: Richard Uhlig on Boy Minus Girl

Learn about Richard Uhlig.

What first inspired you to write for YA readers?

I wasn't inspired to write for YA readers because I didn't know the genre existed. About five years ago, at a dinner party here in New York, I met Rachel Cohn and Patty McCormick, two big time YA authors, who explained to me just what YA was.

At first I thought: Oh no, Sweet Valley High.

But Rachel convinced me that YA was infinitely more sophisticated and edgy than that.

When I told her I had written an unpublished novel about an eighteen-year-old boy and his first love, a novel that wasn't selling, she urged me to market it as YA.

I suggested this to my agent, she agreed, and within a few weeks, we had two offers from major houses.

I received a deal to write another YA novel, so I started reading YA books--and loved them! I found them to be more engaging than a lot of contemporary adult literary fiction, certainly less pretentious.

Let's face it, adolescence is a dramatic time of life: you're trying to make sense of your changing body and your forming identity while being forced to make major life decisions. You're not quite an adult, yet you're no longer a child, and everything is just so darn over-the-top (first love, first break up, make-it-or-break it tests). Let's not even get into how lonely those years can be.

Could you tell us about your path to publication?

I come from the world of film. I grew up on movies and television, not books, and attended film school. But something about the film-making process didn't entirely work for me at that time in my life, finding I enjoyed being alone rather than waiting around on a set for hours while lights were being set up. I've never been much of a joiner, and working on film is a very collaborative experience.

Consequently, I went into screenwriting. I quickly learned the only way to write is to force yourself to sit down and do it, that there are no short cuts, no easy outs.

Screenwriting taught me story structure, plot and suspense. After two of my films were made, I found I wanted to try my hand at a novel, chiefly because I was frustrated with the ways my movies turned out.

I was fortunate to sell the first novel I wrote, but again, I'd been writing screenplays for almost ten years. That said, my first novel was rejected by agents everywhere. But I listened to their comments (when I could get them) and kept rewriting the book.

I'm a tenacious guy. I think you have to be to make it as a writer. Eventually, I hooked an agent who sold the book.

Could you tell us about Boy Minus Girl (Random House, 2008)?

It's very loosely based on an uncle of mine who came to visit my family for a short while when I was in high school. He, in fact, dated waitresses from the topless bar he owned. He was larger than life, a real character.

I was also bullied in junior high and had read a book on how to seduce women.

Those elements were the springboard for the story. I just took it from there and ran with it.

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

It's different with each novel and screenplay. For my first novel, it was about three years. For my second novel, it was less than a year.

The easiest part for me is coming up with story ideas, but where it gets tough is when I set out to write the first fifty pages. Usually, I can fire off the first few chapters pretty effortlessly, setting up the characters, their wants and their problems.

Invariably I run out of steam and am forced to roll up my sleeves and slug through it, word by painful word. Sometimes the story just won't catch fire, and that's when I have to go back to those first chapters and rework them, and that can take months.

But once I get it right, once the characters' motivations are clear to me, and I know what sort of story I want to write, then the rest usually unfolds at a steady clip, and the process becomes fun again.

What are the challenges in bringing the book to life?

First, staying motivated and focused. Whenever I'm in the midst of writing a book, I always get the itch to write something else, something that seems like a lot more fun, a lot more dramatic than what I'm presently writing.

But over time I've learned to jot down these ideas, toss them in my desk drawer, and forget about them until I'm finished with the current project. Otherwise, I'll never finish a book or a screenplay. "Completion" is the name of the game.

Secondly, once the book is done, I have to force myself to pound the pavement to market it. That means either following up on every lead I have for an agent, or, if I have an agent, to stay in constant contact and make recommendations.

This I struggle with. I'd rather write the thing and let it find its home, but that doesn't happen very often. Writing is only half of the equation.

The book is set in the central time zone and in the second half of the 20th century. So why Kansas? Why the 1980s?

I grew up in small town Kansas in the 1980s, that's when I was a teenager, and I draw on that time and place because I know it so well.

Secondly, I presently live in New York City, a place that is the antithesis of rural Kansas, and that offers me a certain perspective, a certain distance, on my hometown. There's something about the prairie and the uninterrupted horizon that just makes me want to write. Perhaps characters seem larger than life in such a desolate place.

I was struck by your successful mix of comedy and more serious themes. What advice do you have for those interested in writing a story with some humor in it?

Let the humor come from the characters! Never force them to say or do things that they wouldn't do. In other words, don't go for a joke for the joke's sake.

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

I belonged to a writing group for a few months, but it fizzled because everyone was too busy with other things. I typically write alone. My first editor is my dad, a writer himself with a great sense of what makes a story work, followed by my wife, who is the least sentimental, least phony person I know, then it's on to my agent, who is painfully honest, and finally the book editor and or/producer. That's more than enough critiques for me!

How do you balance your work as writer with the responsibilities of being an author?

I don't do a very good job of balancing it, to be honest. On my first book, I put together a book tour in the region where the novel was set, and I sold several hundred books. I was on TV, had several newspaper articles written.

However, I prefer to write. I'd really rather work on something new than to talk about something I wrote months ago.

Is there anything you would like to add?

If some kid from Kansas, who grew up watching "The Munsters" and "Leave It To Beaver," can write and sell novels, you can too.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Craft, Career & Cheer: Lorie Ann Grover

Learn about Lorie Ann Grover.

Could you describe the best experience you've had working with an editor?

I have worked with amazing editors from Margarget K. McElderry, Little Simon, and Scholastic. However, the one who I hold first in my heart is Emma Dryden.

Emma found me in a slush pile back in 1999. She coaxed me out and told me that the picture book I had written really was meant to be a novel. Through revision after revision, she helped me layer my story like I was building up a sculpture on a wire armature.

I can actually remember her saying, "And now it’s time to name the main character, Lorie Ann."

Emma believed in my words and helped them to fly. Our first work together was Loose Threads (McElderry, 2002). I was writing about the death of my grandmother from breast cancer as Emma was recovering from her own mother's passing.

Then we moved onto On Pointe (McElderry, 2004), where she danced with me from one end of the novel to the other, even though she was never a ballet dancer herself.

Finally, we completed Hold Me Tight (McElderry, 2005), my most difficult novel where she ended up acting as a therapist in some measure as I faced ugly scenes from my past and tried to make sense of them. She was patient through my fears and tears and stood alongside me through the journey.

When Emma advanced at Simon & Schuster and I began to market my work outside of Margaret K. McElderry books, she remained my friend who celebrated each of my successes and supported my work with readergirlz. Her first response to our online book community as she stood by my side at our booth for our pre-launch at Midwinter ALA 2007 was: "This is smart. Very smart."

Emma Dryden is an editor who asked me question after question to make my work the best I could possibly make it. I count her my mentor and friend.

Why is your agent the right agent for you?

Oh, my agent! My agent that Emma Dryden recommended I pursue because I needed "someone who could be tender with my sensitive nature." Ha! Me, sensitive?

I've discovered it is true, and Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown, Ltd. is my dream agent for my sensitive self.

Oh, to have an agent who tells you, "Work on whichever novel you'd like next. Follow your passion."

And one who says, "Let me call and find out for you. They've had long enough to consider this."

She said, "Sure, send me your board books."

I said, "But I have about thirty dummies."

Her response: "Send them all."


Elizabeth is in my corner with me. And how wonderful is that? After ten years of working alone, I have someone by my side. It's as if I've teamed up with the biggest, toughest kid in the playground, who gets me a turn on the swing, or I'm walking down the high school hall with the most beautiful, popular girl as my bestie. And she is a beauty inside and out.

I've counted every day that Elizabeth has represented me as a blessing. And our relationship has only begun!

In your own words, could you tell us about your latest book?

I have three novels I'm hoping to place in the very near future. The first is about my experience living in South Korea in the 1980s. The second is my venture into prose. It is a fantasy concerning self worth and religious persecution. The third is a novel in verse about a horrible accident. I hope to announce sales of these and a few board books soon, soon, soon!

Cynsational Notes

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children's-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...