Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The 10th Anniversary of Jingle Dancer

My first book, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins), was published ten years ago. From the promotional copy:

Jenna, a contemporary Native American girl in Oklahoma, wants to honor a family tradition by jingle dancing at the next powwow. But where will she find enough jingles for her dress?

A warm family story, beautifully evoked in Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu's watercolor art.

I wrote the book for a lot of reasons.

First, I wanted to share a daily-life story about a contemporary Native girl.

So many Native-themed children's books, to this day, are historicals. And I love a great historical story, but the balance had tipped too far in that direction. It suggested that Native people existed only in the past, which is not true. We are citizens of Nations with a past, a present, and a future.

And though I was open to (and later pursued) telling stories with boy heroes, it seemed that the body of youth literature heavily favored fictional Native boys over fictional Native girls.

Jingle Dancer is a story of love, reciprocity, and tradition. It's also specific, reflecting a Muscogee (Creek)-Anishinabe (Ojibwe/Chippewa) girl from small-town Oklahoma.

The illustrations reflect diversity within Native America by including characters who're also of European and African-American heritage. In fact, it's one of the few books reflecting Black Indian characters wherein their ethnicity is incorporated without commentary.

The story also offers a wider socioeconomic view of Native folks than we normally see in children's books. The main characters include a young attorney.

Above all, it's the story of Jenna, Grandma Wolfe, Great-aunt Sis, Mrs. Scott, and Cousin Elizabeth. And of course a jingle dress!

The book was dedicated to my much-beloved Great-aunt Anne, who sadly is no longer with us. I had the privilege of living with her when I was younger. And oh, my! We had such fun. I hope that when young readers turn the pages, they feel the love we shared.

And finally, I'm forever appreciative of the efforts and caring exhibited by the amazing illustration team and our wonderful editor.

From the Illustration Team

Hi Cynthia:

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since Jingle Dancer was published. But the evidence stares back at me when I look at the photos we (Ying-Hwa and I) took of the jingle dancers at a powwow we attended as a family.

Our kids were in some of the pictures, and they were waist high. Now they are as tall (my son taller) then we are.

Of the different kinds of books we had the privilege to illustrate, there are a handful that made the joy-to-illustrate list. Jingle Dancer is one of them.

As mentioned above, we researched and became familiar with the jingle dance as a family. Not just the day at the powwow, speaking with many of the participants, but also on trips to the National Museum of American Indian.

Aside from having a great time illustrating Jingle Dancer was the later benefit of watching your explosive growth (as an author) and witnessing the abundant energy and resources of your blog and website.

You also very much impacted our daughter when she found out we knew the author of Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001). She loved that book.

A true hope of mine is to one day illustrate another book by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

You are great!

All the best,
Cornelius (& Ying-Hwa)

From the Editor

Happy Anniversary, Jenna!

When Cynthia asked me to write something for the tenth anniversary of Jingle Dancer, her first book, I was thrilled. Ten years!

Since it had been a while since I’d read the book, I sat down to reread it. Tears came to my eyes, and I got goosebumps. What an absolutely perfect picture book this still is, after ten years, with such a sympathetic main character and a compelling storyline.

I have always loved the way this book evokes the importance of family, friends, and community—how people together can accomplish something that one person cannot.

Cyn and I started working together in 1997, when she submitted a manuscript called "Something Bigger" to me. There was something in this story about contemporary Native Americans that I just loved, and Cyn had a fresh, exciting new voice.

Then she sent me a picture book manuscript called "Jenna, Jingle Dancer," which was eventually titled just "Jingle Dancer."

I fell in love with the story right away—-again, Cyn’s voice and lyrical language were wonderful, and I very much welcomed a story about a contemporary Native girl, with not a stereotype in sight.

I acquired Jingle Dancer at Lodestar Books, which was a imprint of Dutton Children’s Books. I received a revision of the manuscript on April 9, and Cyn’s wonderful agent, Ginger Knowlton, had an offer in hand by the end of April. I had to have this book!

Then, in August 1997, the Lodestar imprint was shut down. Cyn kindly followed me to Morrow Junior Books, where I published the book. (Her next two books were published by HarperCollins, which bought Morrow. Same editor, three publishing houses!)

Editorially, the manuscript was in fine shape when it came in. I said in my letter to Cyn, “The changes I made in the manuscript are to smooth out the writing, and they are minor. I think the story is in great shape. You write well, and every word counts—which is just as a picture book should be.”

Most of the work was on the author’s note and glossary, which we both felt were so important to have in this book. Cyn thought of including a recipe for fry bread but worried (okay, she’s a former lawyer!) that frying the bread is a messy business, and a child could get burned.

As soon as I signed up the manuscript, I contacted Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. I’d worked with them before, and I thought they would be the perfect illustrators for this book, with their soft watercolors and ability to draw appealing, realistic characters.

Cyn was quite involved with the art, as we wanted to get it just right. She generously sent me packages to pass along to the artists: a video of jingle-dancing, a craft magazine that featured making jingle dresses, photos of houses and neighborhoods from towns within the borders of Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma.

And have you noticed how many characters in the book are wearing glasses? That’s deliberate: Native Americans are almost never depicted wearing glasses in any media. It was time to change that.

When Cyn received the F&G’s (folded and gathered, print sheets) of the book, she said she felt as though she’d made a trip to family in Oklahoma. I was so pleased!

I’m proud to have published this very, very special book, and the fact that it was Cynthia’s first means a great deal to me.

Happy anniversary, Cyn and Jenna!

Rosemary Brosnan, HarperCollins Children's Books

Awards and Honors

NCSS Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies and a Selector's Choice for 2001;

Named to the 2001 2 x 2 Reading List of twenty books recommended for children ages two through second grade by the Texas Library Association;

One of five finalists for the children's/YA division of the Oklahoma Book Award;

Runner-up for the Storyteller Award from the Western Writers Association;

Named a CCBC Choice for 2001;

Debuts That Deliver (Book Magazine);

Editor's Choice, Library Talk;

Featured in Great Books About Things Kids Love by Kathleen Odean;

2002 Read Across Texas Bibliography (Texas State Library and Archives Commission).

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Jingle Dancer! To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Jingle Dancer" in the subject line. Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to comment, RT, or privately message me with the title in the header; I'll write for contact information, if you win. Deadline: midnight CST April 11. Note: U.S. entries only; sponsored by HarperCollins.

10,000 Books To Be Delivered to Teens on Native Reservations and Tribal Lands

Nationwide, scores of young adult authors and librarians to drop books on April 15 AKA Support Teen Literature Day

Operation Teen Book Drop will deliver 10,000 new books to teens on Native reservations and tribal lands, an event that coincides with Support Teen Literature Day.

In addition, more than 100 top young adult authors will leave their books in public places for young readers to discover, and members of the public can buy books online and have them shipped to tribal libraries.

Publishers donated the books, valued at more than $175,000.

“These publishers have shown astounding vision and generosity by supporting Operation Teen Book Drop,” said readergirlz co-founder Dia Calhoun, an award-winning novelist herself. “Now underserved teens can benefit from the current explosion of high quality YA books. These teens can see their own experience, their tragedies and their triumphs in these books, books that become shining doorways to the young human spirit.”

The donations are especially significant to many Native teens. “In their lives, they really don’t have new books,” said Mary Nickless, the librarian at Ojo Encino Day School, one of 44 institutions that will benefit from Operation TBD.

A nationwide effort of authors, publishers, librarians and readers

In its third year, Operation TBD is part of a massive effort by librarians, young adult authors, and avid readers to spur reading on a nationwide scale. The day aims to encourage teens to read for the fun of it.

The effort is coordinated by readergirlz, the Young Adult Library Services Association, GuysLitWire, and a new partner, If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, a national reading club for Native children.

• More than 100 young adult authors—including David Levithan, Sara Zarr, and Cynthia Leitich Smith—are participating by leaving copies of their books in public places for teens to find.

• Teens and other fans of YA literature are also invited to “rock the drop.”

GuysLitWire has created a wish list of 750 books that supporters can buy from Beginning April 7, these purchases can be made and sent directly to one of two tribal school libraries, Ojo Encino Day School or Alchesay High School.

In 2008 and 2009, the groups coordinated the delivery of 20,000 new books to teens in hospitals.

“Operation TBD was originally conceived with the hope of reaching a number of teen groups,” said readergirlz co-founder Lorie Ann Grover. “While we donated books to hospitalized teens for two years, I was personally compelled to donate books to the local Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. We were thrilled to discover we could broaden this effort with If I Can Read and gift TBD to our second targeted group, Native teens.”

“By making Operation TBD part of Support Teen Literature Day, YALSA and its partners help raise awareness of the importance of teen literature to all teens,” said Linda W. Braun, YALSA President. “Our thanks to the publishers, If I Can Read I Can Do Anything, readergirlz and Guys Lit Wire for joining us in supporting such a worthy cause.”

Participating publishers this year include Abrams Books; Bloomsbury/Walker Books; Candlewick Press; Chronicle Books; Hachette Book Group; Boyds Mills Press; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Milkweed; Mirrorstone Books; Orca Book Publishers; Scholastic; Simon & Shuster Children's Publishing; Tor/Forge/Starscape/Tor Teen; Roaring Brook Press; and Better World Books.

Everyone who participates in Operation TBD is invited to celebrate at the TBD Post-Op Party on April 15 at the readergirlz blog.

Cynsational Notes

About Support Teen Literature Day

In its fourth year, Support Teen Literature Day is April 15, and will be celebrated in conjunction with ALA’s National Library Week. Librarians across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day by hosting events in their libraries. The celebration raises awareness that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase award-winning authors and books in the genre, as well as highlight librarians’ expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials.

About the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

For more than 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audiobooks for teens.

About GuysLitWire

Guys Lit Wire brings literary news and reviews to the attention of teenage boys and the people who care about them. Working to combat the perception that teen boys aren’t as well read as teen girls, the organization seeks out literature uniquely targeted toward teen male readers in hopes of bringing attention of good books to guys who might have missed them.

About If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything

If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything is a national reading club for Native children directed by Dr. Loriene Roy. The program works to encourage reading among Native children by offering incentives, sending books to schools, and sponsoring activities.

About readergirlz

readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by critically acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), Liz Gallagher (The Opposite of Invisible), Elizabeth Scott (The Unwritten Rule) and Melissa Walker (Lovestruck Summer).

readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award and a 2009 Innovations in Reading Prize from the National Book Foundation.

To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month, and offers chats with authors and an author-in-residency program for aspiring writers.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Guest Post: Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams on the Goddess Girls series

Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams are co-authors of the new Goddess Girls series (Aladdin, 2010-).

These middle-grade books include Athena the Brain (April 2010)(excerpt), Persephone the Phony (April 2010), Aphrodite the Beauty (August 2010), and Artemis the Brave (December 2010).

Suzanne: The Goddess Girls series began with a conversation over dinner. Joan asked if I might like to collaborate on something. I agreed, and about the time Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief (Hyperion, 2005)--the first book in his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series--debuted, we were putting the finishing touches on the proposal for Goddess Girls.

It took a while for Aladdin to decide to buy our proposal, which is a tween series loosely and humorously based on myth and starring four major goddessgirls: Athena, Persephone, Aphrodite, and Artemis (whom we originally named "Diana" until our editor pointed out that though "Diana" is the better-known name for this goddess, it is her Roman name.)

Our lovely leading ladies attend fictional Mount Olympus Academy, where the commanding yet bumbling Zeus is principal, and where hunky godboys like Ares and Hades, add an element of light romance.

Joan [her bookshelves include two rows of mythology titles]:

Writing about tweenage Greek goddesses and gods was a blast. We tossed our egos out the window and mercilessly rewrote each other's work until the series began to sound as if one author had written it.

We discussed some things up front: Should all details about clothing, food, settings, etc. be clearly rooted in Ancient Greek times, or could we incorporate a few modern elements? How should our characters speak? Should all character names come from mythology, or could some names be made up? What magical elements could we introduce and still keep to the spirit of Greek myth?

Suzanne: We decided to make things easy for our age 8-12 readers (and ourselves!) by having our goddessgirls and godboys speak like "regular kids," with an occasional god-worthy exclamation thrown in. (“Yegods!” “Godness!")

Other challenges we solved as we went along.

In very early drafts of Book 1, Athena the Brain, Athena communicated with her friend Pallas by shellphone, and packed lots of books when she left her Earth home for Mount Olympus.

And in a trip to the Underworld in Book 2, Persephone the Phony, we had Persephone encountering two clipboard-wielding brothers whose job it is to keep track of the new souls entering.

Though we wound up keeping some modern elements (there’s a filing cabinet in Zeus’s office, and an intercom), we eventually disposed of the shellphone, changed “books” to scrolls or papyrus sheets, and got rid of the clipboards.

Mostly, we tried to give readers the flavor of Ancient Greece without overwhelming them with too many unfamiliar or unwieldy details. In keeping with Ancient Greece, our goddessgirls wear chitons, our godboys, tunics. But the foods they eat in the school cafeteria are fanciful creations like yambrosia (a stew), and nectaroni and cheese.

Joan: The myths themselves suggested the personalities of our characters and helped us plot our stories. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, among other things, so she’s the brainy goddessgirl. An over-achiever in fact, who tries to juggle too much (cheer, extra-credit projects, a big course-load) in order to keep up with the other amazing goddess girls and godboys she meets at MOA (Mount Olympus Academy).

Since the Persephone of myth divides her time between Mount Olympus and the Underworld, it made sense to us that her personality might reflect those places, and that she might struggle to meld the sunny and not-so-sunny parts of her nature.

As God of War, wouldn’t you expect Ares to be a hothead? And who else but Poseidon would create a Waterworks Park for a school project?

Suzanne [pictured here in her office]:

Eventually, we decided that all character names should be taken from Greek mythology. Even for minor characters we tried to choose names that seemed appropriate. Ares' two buddies are Kydoimos (Confusion) and Makhai (a general name for spirits of battle). And the two (twin) brothers working in the Underworld are Hypnos (God of Sleep) and Thanatos (God of Death).

And those bits of fun magic we wanted to add to our series?

Keep an eye out for an animated makeup brush, a holographic-like beast-hunting game, spells to instantly change a hairdo or send messages zooming from one place to another, and much, much more.

Happy reading to goddessgirls everywhere!

~ Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

2010 Ezra Jack Keats Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature

Author Tonya Hegamin and illustrator Taeeun Yoo are the winners of the 2010 Ezra Jack Keats Awards, which celebrate excellence in children’s literature by new authors and illustrators, who, in the spirit of the late author-illustrator Ezra Jack Keats, offer new and electrifying views of the multicultural world children inhabit today.

The awards will be presented at 6 p.m. April 28 by The New York Public Library and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. The ceremony, open to the public, will be held in the South Court Auditorium of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in New York, New York.

Tonya Hegamin is recognized for Most Loved in All the World, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), which tells the story of a little girl whose mother is a secret agent on the Underground Railroad. Before sending her daughter north to freedom, the mother sews a quilt for her daughter, not only to guide her with its symbols of moss and the north star, but also to remind her always that the smiling girl in the center of the quilt is “most loved in all the world.”

Taeeun Yoo wins for her sublime linoleum block prints in Only a Witch Can Fly, written by Alison McGhee (Feiwel & Friends, 2009), about a young witch who tries and tries again to fly one special night.

See more information on the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award and this year’s winners. Source:

Monday, April 05, 2010

Director Meg Kearney on the Solstice Creative Writing Programs of Pine Manor College in Massachusetts

Meg Kearney’s first collection of poetry, An Unkindness of Ravens, was published by BOA Editions Ltd. in 2001.

The Secret of Me, her novel in verse for teens, was released in hardcover by Persea Books in 2005; the paperback edition, along with a teacher’s guide, came out in 2007.

Four Way Books published her newest collection of poems, Home By Now, in fall 2009; by the week of Nov. 9, it appeared as #8 on the Poetry Foundation’s contemporary poetry best-seller list.

Her picture book, Trouper the Three-Legged Dog, is forthcoming from Scholastic in 2012 and will feature illustrations by E.B. Lewis.

Meg has taught poetry at The New School, and is the director of the Solstice Creative Writing Programs of Pine Manor College in Massachusetts.

She was the associate director of the National Book Foundation, sponsor of the National Book Awards, for more than 10 years.

Her poetry has been featured on Poetry Daily and Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac,” and has been published in myriad anthologies.

A native New Yorker, Meg now lives in New Hampshire.

Why would a children's/YA writer want to pursue an MFA degree? What doors does it open, creatively and professionally?

Most people who enter an MFA program—not just those who write for young people—do so because they want to grow as artists, become the best writers they can possibly be.

An MFA program offers structure for doing that, along with a vast supply of knowledge about craft and literature. When we work alone, learning our craft through reading, composing, and paying attention to how other writers “do what they do,” we can go quite far; but attending classes on craft, criticism, & theory and working one-on-one with a mentor can open our creative minds to ideas we might never have encountered, and push us to try things we’ve never considered before.

That said, perhaps most important is the community provided by an MFA program: at our residencies, students become close very quickly; I have seen friendships formed within days that I know will last a lifetime. In workshop, we stress the need for positive criticism; it’s all about making the work better, not tearing people down personally.

It’s only in such a warm and supportive community that students are going to feel safe enough to experiment and take creative risks they never would otherwise.

As writers, we spend so much of our time in solitude—when we come together, we realize how much we actually need colleagues who can spend hours talking about plot or dialogue or our favorite books and not think us strange or boring. Those same friends often become each other’s first readers, providing the kind of feedback writers at all levels require.

At residencies, students and faculty also spend a lot of time together—in class and workshops and at meals—and the mentor-mentee relationships created provide not just guidance and support semester to semester, but a roster of respected authors who can be called upon for references and contacts after graduation.

That’s one of the more practical considerations—an MFA program offers the chance to expand one’s professional network, and to gain experience through internships and through classes that expose students to the myriad ways their degree might “apply” in the outside world.

Could you offer us some insights into the history of the Solstice low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College?

As an undergraduate liberal arts college, Pine Manor College is ranked number one in the country for diversity. It works to instill a strong sense of community and leadership in its students, many of whom represent the first in their families to go to college. It therefore seemed to be the ideal place to start an MFA Program.

The Solstice MFA Program launched in July, 2006, with 10 fabulous and daring students, three of whom write for children and young adults (two of those three were men!).

As founding director, I knew I wanted to create a program that celebrated diversity and community, one where students and faculty alike felt safe and supported enough to take creative risks. Today we have about 40 students and an amazing faculty (plus a top-notch assistant director) who together form the kind of community I envisioned.

What special opportunities are afforded by the program?

We keep our program intimate and affordable—we have fewer than 50 students and feature one of the lowest tuition rates in the country.

We’re also one of the few programs to offer need-based scholarships in addition to fellowships for first-semester students (including the Jacqueline Woodson Fellowship for a Young People’s Writer of African or Caribbean Decent).

[Note: Jackie is shown here with graduate Maryann Jacob Macias.]

Students are able to explore another genre in their second semester if they wish; and our third-semester students have the option of undertaking an internship in publishing, teaching, or community arts outreach.

At Solstice, we don’t separate those who write for children and young adults from the rest of the genres; the fiction writers, poets, and creative nonfiction writers are mixed together and able to “cross-pollinate” in classes and elective sessions.

Our readings also feature a mix of work for children and young adults as well as adults—something rarely presented at other reading series!

(Those who write for adults only are always blown away by YA and children’s writers; we’ve made many a convert!)

We see this as a particular strength; we have so much to teach one another. The only place the genres are separated is in workshop.

Lastly, I should mention that we’re also on a truly lovely, wooded campus that happens to be just five miles from downtown Boston.

What is the scope and focus of coursework?

At the residencies, students spend three hours a day in workshop. These workshops are the heart of the residency. The eight, three-hour sessions required allow students to experience a variety of pedagogical approaches, develop constructive critiquing skills, and enhance their own writing via close study of other works-in-progress. Our approach to the workshop emphasizes an atmosphere of mutual respect and consideration between students and faculty members.

Also, we offer a variety of craft, criticism, & theory (CC&T) classes as well as elective seminars and studies (ES&S) sessions.

The two-hour CC&T classes are designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of the structural, philosophical, and historical underpinnings of the art of writing.

The one-hour E&S sessions are designed to broaden students’ awareness and initiate dialogue concerning a variety of issues and opportunities in the literary community, from censorship to new “movements” in the field (e.g. graphic novels) to strategies for improving one’s reading/public-speaking style. These sessions also give students ideas about various roles they might undertake as writers in their communities.

Students must take a minimum of three CC&T classes and three ES&S sessions each over the course of the 10 days, though they are welcome to take more.

Students are also provided with opportunities to meet with agents and editors.

There is a reading, including a student-run event, every evening.

A few days before the residency ends, students know which faculty member they will be working with for the semester ahead; at that point, they meet with their mentor to create a semester plan. In essence, this includes a reading list as well as a schedule of when packets are due (five total, submitted over the course of 21 weeks).

In semesters one and two, packets include a mix of creative and critical work; in semester three, students focus on writing a major critical essay. Semester four involves the completion of a creative thesis, a book-length manuscript of fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction (some of our students who write for young people might graduate with a YA novel, work of nonfiction, or a series of picture books).

What is required for the degree?

In order to graduate, students must have received a passing grade for 60 credits of course work and must have attended five, 10-day residencies.

The 60 credits include completion of the critical thesis (semester three) and a creative thesis (semester four), which is approved by the faculty mentor and a second faculty reader.

At their fifth and final residency, graduating students give a reading, attend workshops, and teach a one-hour lecture. (Classes are optional.) There is also commencement ceremony.

[Laura Williams McCaffrey's workshop is shown here.]

How is the program structured--number of semesters, etc.?

It takes two years to complete the program, which includes four semesters and five residencies. Each residency marks the beginning of a semester (winter/spring; summer/fall); the fifth residency is the graduating residency described above.

Could you describe the academic "culture" of the program?

The Solstice MFA Program is academically rigorous. We expect incoming students already to be well read in their genre, and anticipate that they will spend an average of 25 hours per week on their MFA-related work. This includes reading as well as writing—students read upward of 20 books per semester. There essentially are no breaks; as one semester ends, students are doing preparation work (reading, mostly) for the coming residency’s classes. Residencies are intense; we suggest students (and faculty) arrive well-rested!

Could you tell us about your faculty? Their credentials and areas of expertise?

Our faculty members are fabulous writers who love to teach. The most comprehensive information about them can be found on our Web site.

Those who teach writing for children and young adults include Laban Carrick Hill, Grace Lin (writer-in-residence; shown with her picture book class), Laura Williams McCaffrey, and David Yoo.

Jacqueline Woodson is one of our founding faculty members and is now a consulting writer (she “visited” us in January 2010 via Skype!).

Laban Carrick Hill writes across the genres—fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. His latest children’s picture book, Dave the Potter: Poet, Artist, Slave (illustrated by Bryan Collier), is coming out with Little, Brown in September 2010; and his picture biography DJ Kool Herc, The Godfather of Hip Hop, will be published by Roaring Brook Press in 2011.

Grace Lin, who just received a Newbery Honor for her book When the Mountain Meets the Moon (Little, Brown, 2009), teaches both fiction and picture books. She was pretty much a sensation with the release of her first novel, The Ugly Vegetables (Charlesbridge, 1999), which was an ABA “Pick of the List” selection and named Bank Street College’s Best Book of the Year in 1999; she’s gone on to publish more than a dozen books since.

Laura Williams McCaffrey is a former librarian who writes speculative fiction that delves deeply into women who are pushing against traditional roles, including Water Shaper (Clarion, 2006) and Alia Waking (Clarion, 2003), which was nominated for the Teens Top Ten Books list. Her next book, Laila’s Flight (Clarion, 2010), will be a graphic novel of sorts—it’s truly a genre-bender and we’re all very excited about it!

David Yoo is one of the funniest writers I know. He’s the author of the novels Girls for Breakfast (Delacorte, 2005), which was named a NYPL Best Book for Teens and a Booksense Pick; and Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before (Hyperion, 2008), a Chicago Best of the Best His forthcoming collection of essays, The Choke Artist, documents the experience of growing up as a Korean American with characteristic humor.

Jacqueline Woodson—well, Jackie is a rock star, and one of our greatest supporters. She’s the author of numerous books for children and young adults, including the Newbery Honor books After Tupac & D Foster (Putnam, 2008) and Feathers (Putnam, 2007); and Miracle’s Boys (Putnam, 2002), winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (made into a six-part television miniseries on Noggin in 2004 – 2005, directed by Spike Lee). She’s won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, has twice been a National Book Award Finalist, and her work has been listed several times as an ALA “Best Book For Young Adults.”

We also bring a number of wonderful guests to campus—these have included Nancy Willard, Nina Crews, Donald Hall, Louise Meriwether, Melissa Stewart, and Naomi Shihab Nye [shown below].

How competitive is admissions?

Our application requires both an essay and a manuscript of creative work, in addition to three letters of reference. We’re fairly competitive; on average, 55 percent of our applicants are admitted.

As creative writers, at what level are students when they enter the program? Upon graduation?

When we read an application, we look for students who are avid readers.

We’re also looking for students who show a willingness to work hard and evolve as a writer, as well as creative work that warrants admission to a graduate-level program.

By this, we mean command of language, freshness and originality of prose or verse, depth of understanding and clear explication of the subject(s), development of dramatic material, and demonstrated knowledge of the relationship between form and content.

Of course, these criteria are be applied differently to the work of an applicant than the work of a student who is about to graduate from the program!

I know it’s not just the faculty and I who see students grow dramatically over the course of the two years—the students see this blossoming in themselves and in their peers, and often comment on it.

How about as scholars?

While students who enter the program might not be “scholars,” per se—they could well have been math or science majors in their undergraduate years; they might be travel agents or kindergarten teachers. But I would say that, by the time they graduate, our students are deeply knowledgeable about their craft as well as about young-adult and children’s literature.

Could you give us some examples of graduate success stories?

[Laban Carrick Hill is pictured with graduate Kimberly Mitchell.]

We’re a fairly new program—our first commencement was in July 2008! But as a low-residency program, we graduate (and bring in) a new class every six months.

To date, 28 percent of our graduates have published in literary journals, and 6 percent have been selected for honorable mention in national literary competitions.

In addition, 12.5 percent have lined up teaching positions at the college level.

Among current students, 24 percent have published in literary journals, 3 percent have secured book contracts for academic publications, and 9 percent have placed in national literary competitions.

Could you describe the campus?

Located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Pine Manor College is one of New England’s most beautiful campuses. The College is situated on sixty wooded acres where buildings of a former estate blend architecturally with state-of-the-art facilities. It’s quite easy to navigate on foot.

Whether traveling to our campus by car or by public transportation, Pine Manor is also easily accessible. The College is fifteen minutes from the heart of Boston, approximately one hour from Providence, and three and a half hours from New York City.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Our students and alumni are always happy to email or chat on the phone with prospective students. I’d be happy to arrange that for anyone who is interested.

There is also an opportunity to audit classes at both our January and July residencies; we list the classes open to auditors on our Web site about a month before each residency begins.

Lastly, I’d urge potential applicants to visit our Web site, where we not only have comprehensive information about our program, but also profiles of our faculty, students, and alumni.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Author-Bookseller Interview: Kathy L. Patrick, The Pulpwood Queen

Learn more about Kathy L. Patrick.

Could you please begin by telling us the story behind your story?

My story really begins when I was downsized from my dream job. I was book publisher’s representative, and as I was the last hired, I was the first let go.

When independent bookstores started closing in my territory due to the influx of big-box chains, I lost my territory base.

That's how my memoir begins, my first book, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life (Grand Central Publishing, 2008), with the first chapter titled, "When life hands you a lemon, make margaritas!"

Yes, one door was firmly shut, but another window of opportunity flew open and I jumped right in.

How did you come to launch Beauty & The Book?

Beauty and the Book, "the Only Hair Salon/Book Store in the country," perhaps the world, began because of something my sister said.

I called her when I lost my job--whining to her about "now what in the world was I supposed to do?"--when she told me, "Open up your hair salon again, you always did well doing hair."

You see, I put myself through college doing hair, but for me, it was always a means to and end. I never thought it would be my life's profession.

I told my sister doing hair would probably bore me to death. I had done everything you could do doing hair, and besides, I could not imagine my life without talking books.

She then told me, matter of fact, "Well, do the book thing, too!"

Beauty and the Book was born Jan. 18, 2000, and this year, we celebrate our 10th anniversary!

I have found that combining my two passions of creating beauty and talking books has helped me find my life’s true purpose, promoting literacy! There is great beauty in books, so I am now all about helping people find their beauty without and within!

What makes the place special?

Beauty and the Book is not just a Hair Salon/Book Store, it is a community center. Not a day goes by that some girl group, book club, or group of individuals don't come by just to have an experience, whether getting a beauty service, talking and shopping for books, or just hanging out! Nobody stops by for just a minute as, the next thing you know, the morning or afternoon is gone. I want people to know that Beauty and the Book is their home away from home.

I always tell folks, "I’ll leave the hair dryer on for ya!"

Talk to us about tiaras!

Shortly after I started Beauty and the Book, I was asked to come join the local book club. I was ecstatic! I had always wanted to be in a book club as there is nothing more in the world I love to discuss more than a good story.

At the end of the meeting, I gushed, "Thank you, thank you so much for inviting me to your book club," when the hostess grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me into the galley of her lovely antebellum home.

She proceeded to tell me, whispering, that all though they had invited me to join their club, that the invitation was for only as a guest. There were eight members in their book club period.

Unless someone moved away or died, that was it!

Horrified, I begged their pardon and quickly excused myself.

As I drove home, I was mortified that I had obviously invited myself into a private club. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, if there is ever going to be a book club that I would want to be a part of, I guess I will have to start it myself.

So I did. The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas were born March 2000 with the motto, "where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule."

We would not be an exclusive book club but an inclusive one. The tiaras came about because, as a child, I dreamed of wearing the crown like Miss America. But as I grew from child to teen, I soon learned that there are certain physical attributes that you have to have in order to be in the competition. One of them was a waistline and of that I was sorely lacking.

I felt it completely unfair that I, a product of the no-waistline gene, would not be able to compete in the Miss America pageant no matter how hard I tried. So I decided as a middle-aged woman, that I would crown all women queens, if they would only be readers.

We would be the beauty "within" queens, as we all know true beauty comes from within!

What kind of programs do you sponsor?

I tell everybody I sponsor our annual Pulpwood Queen and Timber Guys Book Club convention, which we call our Girlfriend Weekend, always held the third weekend in January, but really this is just my way of saying that I work all year for free to make this event happen.

We now have currently 265 chapters of The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs that run from Alaska to Florida, New York to California, and everywhere in between nationwide. Also, we are now an international book club as we have members and chapters in nine foreign countries.

We are the largest meeting-and-discussing book club in the world, which means we all read and meet in our own chapters to discuss the books that I select.

What makes our book club so inviting is I also arrange for teleconferences with the authors, if their schedules permit, and/or arrange visits with the authors if they are in the vicinity.

Each chapter takes on its own literacy endeavors, and I encourage them to do so. My chapter in Anchorage, Alaska; flew me up for their first anniversary and to help them start the first ever Pulpwood Queen chapter in a women’s prison.

I myself lead a chapter at a local homeless shelter where I lead a life-writing class.

I have a chapter is South Louisiana that funds and entire school in Nicaragua with textbooks and Bibles.

The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas partnered with our local Rotary Club to help start the Dolly Parton Imagination Library literacy project here in Marion County. Now for every child born in my county, a book is sent every month free to that child until they start kindergarten. That is 60 books, a library free to get them reading ready for school.

I am encouraging all my chapters to help initiate this incredible literacy project. I myself volunteer to read at schools, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, wherever, because in order to lead, you must set an example. People learn most by actions not just words.

So we not only talk the talk for literacy, we do walk the walk and literally--most of my chapters do in the American Cancer Association Relay for Life.

How about programs specifically tailored to young readers and/or involving children's-teen authors?

Yes, a couple of years ago I started Pinecone chapters for younger readers and the Splinters chapters for teens and college age. This began with my two daughters, and I encourage other chapters to lead by example and get their children involved in reading together and out loud to smaller children.

How do you choose books for Splinters and Pinecones?

Most of the books are sent to me by the authors or recommended to me by fellow independent booksellers and bookstores.

What are some recent choices?

Last year's Pulpwood Queen Children’s Book of the year, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2008), went on to be a finalist for the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

This year's winner was Melissa Conroy (Poppy’s Pants (Blue Apple, 2009)), who we were fortunate to have on a panel with her father, New York Times Bestseller Pat Conroy at our Girlfriend Weekend.

The "Poppy' of her book is based on her father Pat Conroy and the relationship with his granddaughter, "Penelope" in the book. It was a real treat to have them both speak of her outstanding children's book.

[Above, authors from left to right, Melissa Conroy, Pat Conroy, and Janis Owens at Beauty and the Book Girlfriend Weekend 2010.]

Who are some of the folks (authors or otherwise) that have visited over the years?

My book club prides itself on helping undiscovered authors get discovered in a big way. Some of the authors we have selected have then gone on to super-stardom including: Jeannette Walls of The Glass Castle (Scribner, 2009), Charles Martin of Where the River Ends (Broadway/Random House, 2008), Michael Morris of Slow Way Home (HarperOne, 2003), Ron Hall of Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together (Thomas Nelson, 2008), and Cassandra King of Queen of Broken Hearts (Hyperion, 2007).

Many other authors we have selected (but yet not had grace our doors) have too gone on to superstar status, including: Ann Packer of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier (Vintage, 2003), Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love (Viking, 2006), and most recently, Kathryn Stockett of The Help (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2009).

Then because our book club has received so much media attention and great features, such as, "Good Morning America," "Oprah," Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and The Los Angeles Times, we have been fortunate to have some real celebrities and New York Times best-selling authors grace our doors including: Linda Bloodworth Thomason, Rue McClanahan, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Kinky Friedman (who was running for governor at the time), Kelly Corrigan, Elizabeth Berg, and my all-time favorite author in the whole wide world, Pat Conroy.

Would you like to share any favorite memories?

One of my favorite memories was riding in my mini-van with the late, great, Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist and author Doug Marlette.

Doug had written his first book, The Bridge (HarperCollins, 2001), and I was taking him around to all my book clubs in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

As we were driving down I-20 from Choudrant, Louisiana; headed home, Doug turned to me and said, "Kathy, do you always have paparazzi trail you on the road?"

When I inquired what in the world was he talked about, he told me, "Look to your left!"

I turned to see a little white compact car driving right beside me with the driver leaning across the passenger seat madly clicking photos of us in the van while he was driving.

He passed us, honking, and I turned to Doug, dumbfounded.

He continued, "Well, I knew you were becoming famous, but that takes the cake."

I am paraphrasing here as it is very doubtful that Doug would say "take the cake," but you get the idea. We laughed about it all the way home.

Later, when I got on my computer to check my emails, it was photographer Shane Bevel, a friend that worked for the Shreveport Times. He emailed me that when he saw my mini-van, he knew I must have had an author on board with me so he decided to have some fun with it!

To this day, I would give anything for those photographs as that was the last time I was with Doug in person. He was killed a couple of summers ago in a tragic hydroplaning car accident. He was only 57, and I will miss him dearly.

I created The Doug Marlette Award, given each year to a person for a lifetime of promoting literacy so that author and friend would never be forgotten. This year, that award was given by his best friend and author Pat Conroy to Arkansas bookseller, my mentor, Mary Gay Shipley.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, his distorted sense of humor, which was the same as mine, and his intelligence and grace. Yes, that was a memory I will cherish forever!

You're also an author in your own right! Congratulations! Can you tell us more about The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life?

I have dreamed of being an author my whole life as there is nobody I admire more than those who can take a great story and put it to paper for print. Never though in a million years would I have dreamed that this would come into fruition because I guess I thought you had to be born somewhere other than a small town in Kansas. I thought you had to have a better education than me, though I continue to be a life-long learner.

It seemed a dream way out of my reach, but in fact, I got a call from a publisher asking me to write my story.

To make a long story short, then I had an agent call me to represent me, which led to me then taking my book proposal to New York to shop to major publishing houses.

This did not happen overnight. From start to finish, it took six years. But I am proud to say that my life story in books was published by Grand Central Publishing, formerly Warner Books. It is my story on how books saved me and how I am on a mission to promote literacy one book, one author, one book club chapter at a time.

But that’s not all. My book is a resource book for anyone who has an interest in reading. I have had almost a dozen state library associations endorse me by having me come and speak to their organizations and continue to do so.

At the end of each chapter, I tell the reader, if you like this story, perhaps you would like these books and list them. I give advice on how to start a book club and what to do and not to do.

I also listed all of my book club selections from inception to publication date.

There are recipes as each month our book club prepares a meal to go along with our read and so much, much more.

It's kind of one-stop shop for readers, and I think you will find my story so inspiring, you too will be able to find your life's purpose through reading great books!

What do directions do you foresee in your future?

Of course, I want the Pulpwood Queen Book Club program to continue forever, long after I am gone. I kind of see myself as this trailblazing woman--like Juliet Low of the Girl Scouts meets Mary Kay of Mary Kay cosmetics! Like Miss America, who is always touting "world peace," I do believe that that can happen if we become a more literate and reading world!

My book has been sent forth out into the world kind of like The Little Engine that Could. It's a book to show that I think I can, I think I can, I know I can create a better world through reading. My book is helping me get the message out in a bigger way, but when I dream, I dream big!

I want my own talk show! Yes, I want it to be called "Beauty and the Book," and I have the perfect co-host, author, Robert Leleux of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy (St. Martin's, 2008)!

A former East Texan and the most wonderful literate, witty, brilliant man I know to do this show where we show people that reading is not only important, it's big-time fun!

For the last couple of years, Robert and I, dubbed BOBKAT, have been running our Girlfriend Weekend like a talk show!

We have taped these and are willing to show the world that Reading Is The Best Entertainment in the Whole World!

Most films these days are based on books, and we have a really quirky and fun way that is different, but in order to understand, you just have to see it to believe it!

Oh, and if my book were made into film, of course, I would choose Meryl Streep to play me as like Barbie, she can really portray anybody. I told you I dream big!

So I invite everyone to come on board our “Little Engine That Could” Pulpwood Queen Program to promote authors, books, literacy, and reading!

Joining forces with people such as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, connecting people in a book club (who may have never had that relationship if it wasn’t for sharing a good read) is my goal!

I just want to shout it from the mountaintops, but I have to admit a television show would be a whole heck a lot easier; don’t you think?

[Kathy L. Patrick shown as as Tippi Hedren Barbie from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" at Happy 50th Birthday Barbie Party Girlfriend Weekend 2010]

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Yes, for anyone reading this, no matter what you have been made to believe, you can make a difference!

If a small-town Kansas girl with big dreams and at times big hair can do it, so can you!

I may not take myself very seriously--I mean who does when you are over 50?--but I do take the importance of literacy and reading very much so.

Won’t you all join me on this wonderful road to reading?! It all begins with one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one page! Then once I get you reading, I am going to have you writing too.

I never knew who I really was until I wrote my book. I have come full circle and found myself and my purpose in life through reading and writing.

And just remember, that writing your story does not have to be for publication, it can be just for you and your family and friends.

Besides, a story not written is a library lost to your family and friends.

Nobody can tell your story better than you, and it’s just like my favorite quote says, "The world is made up of stories, not atoms" (Muriel Rukheyser).

Life is all about the story, our relationships with others and how we connect. And now my friends, that is my story and I’m sticking to it!

Tiara Wearing and Book Sharing,

Kathy L. Patrick
The Pulpwood Queen

[The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas as Wizard of Oz characters at Somewhere Over the Rainbow Great Big Ball of Hair Ball Girlfriend Weekend 2010.]

Learn more about the Pulpwood Queens, and read Kathy's blog.

Pretend you're Oprah, and check out this awesome video:

Friday, April 02, 2010

Editorial Assistant Interview: Andrew Harwell of Dutton Children’s Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group

Andrew Harwell is an editorial assistant at Dutton Children’s Books, a division of the Penguin Young Readers Group.

What were you like as a young reader?

I loved big, sweeping books, especially the classics. I remember running around my school playground with Robinson Crusoe [by Daniel Defoe (1719)] and Wuthering Heights [by Emily Brontë (1847)] tucked under my arm.

Then I discovered the Redwall series (1986-2010), which – when I realized that so many massive books followed some of the same characters –seemed the most sweeping adventure of all. I quickly became hooked on series fantasy.

How did you come to make children's-YA literature a career focus?

It may not be surprising after that last question that I ended up studying the classics in college. German philosophy, world literature – not what you’d call "light" reading.

Whenever I had a spare moment, I always gravitated towards the kids’ section of bookstores because that’s where all the fun books were.

Then, I began to realize that the children’s and YA books I loved so much were tackling some of the same questions as those big, heady books I was studying, only the YA books were making those questions accessible for a new generation.

In that vital capability (and in the fun of it, too!), I saw a dream career, and here I am today.

What does an editorial assistant do?

In many ways, publishing is something you can only learn by doing.

I often think of being an editorial assistant as being an editorial apprentice. I get to work with authors on manuscripts and hunt for illustrators for picture books, and I get to do a lot of copy-writing, too, but at the same time, I get to see and assist other editors’ processes firsthand.

Everyone has a slightly different method of doing things, and I love getting to see multiple editorial approaches even as I work on my own.

Can you describe a typical work day?

Lots of reading, lots of writing, lots of e-mails, and a few meetings. That might sound like a workday at any number of jobs, but the difference is all my brain-power is going towards making good books better. So even when I’m at my desk for hours at a time, my mind might be in a totally make-believe world or even – gulp – back in high school.

What do you love about your job?

I love working with people who care about books. A single person’s passion can go a long way, and it is endlessly rejuvenating to work in a field where many such passionate people are working for something we all agree matters.

What are its challenges?

We start working on books long before they’re ever in stores, and we continue to keep up with them long after they hit shelves. Sometimes, I forget what year I’m actually in! It’s terribly confusing.

What makes Dutton special?

Dutton is one of the oldest continually operating children's book publishers in the United States, and it is such an honor to be a part of that tradition.

From Winnie-the-Pooh and Judy Blume to Ellen Raskin and Jean Craighead George, Dutton has published some truly incredible books over the years, and I love having names like those to look up to when I’m considering a potential project or working with an author to make our new books stand the same test of time.

Do you have any advice for writers submitting their manuscripts for consideration?

Remember: a strong concept might catch our attention, but we’re still looking for a complete, well-written story.

Take your time and make sure that epiphanous idea is supported by strong characters who grow and change.

It can seem tempting to jump on hot trends when you’re looking to get published, but there will always be room in the marketplace for well-told, satisfying stories, and those are the ones that stand the test of time.

Could you highlight just a few of the recent/upcoming books from the list?

In two short months, Dutton is publishing John Grisham’s first ever children’s book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.

This fall, we’re launching the first in an exciting new trilogy called Matched [by Allyson Condie] that is going to take young readers by storm.

And also coming fall 2010, the anxiously awaited finale to The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series [by Heather Brewer], Twelfth Grade Kills. It’s going to be an epic year.

Everyone's speculating about the future of publishing, especially with regard to e-books. What do you see in the crystal ball?

Publishers do so very much for books. We are gatekeepers, yes, and distributors, too, but we are also value-adders and scale-amplifiers, and I see those roles remaining important even in new media.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win Vampireology: A Genuine and Moste Authentic Ology (Candlewick, 2010)! From the promotional copy:

Long before the term vampire was born, long before Bram Stoker fictionalized this being’s ways, blood-drinking demons were banished to Earth by Michael’s host of Angels, or so the Bible describes.

Now this rich, mesmerizing resource, written in 1900, sheds light on what happened hence to the three vampire bloodlines -- especially the tortured souls known as the Belial. Interspersed are booklets, flaps, and letters between a young paranormal researcher who discovered the book in the 1920s and an oddly alluring woman who seeks his help. Among the phenomena explored are:

* vampires’ genealogical origins, attributes, and range

* myths about the making of vampires

* secrets of vampires’ powers and shape-shifting skills

* tips for spotting vampires, protecting oneself, and fighting back

* case studies of famous vampires -- and vampire hunters -- through history

* a shocking overview of vampires "living" among us

Explore (if you dare) the true history of the Fallen Ones -- and follow the fate of a 1920s investigator lured by a beauty with violet eyes.

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Vampireology" in the subject line. Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the title in the header or comment on this round-up; I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: midnight CST April 30. Note: U.S. entries only.

Cynsational Winners

The winners of Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Knopf, 2010) are Karen in California, Jennifer in Wyoming, and Kristen in Oregon. Read a guest post by Margo on Short Stories and Novels - Different Animals, Different Taming Techniques.

The winners of How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2010) are Amy in Utah, Mark in New Jersey, and Lena in Texas. Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

The winners of the T-shirt tie in to Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Hyperion, 2010) are Lauren in Pennsylvania and Jude in Massachusetts. Both winners also will receive a copy of the novel! Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel.

National Cowboy Museum Announces Wrangler Award Winners of the 49th Annual Western Heritage Awards

Oklahoma City-- For the 49th time, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum announces the Western Heritage Awards. The awards honor and encourage the legacy of those whose works in literature, music, film and television reflect the significant stories of the American West.

The Western Heritage Awards are presented at a black-tie banquet at the Museum, set for April 17. Each winner in attendance receives a Wrangler, an impressive bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback. Awards presented in 2010 are for works completed in 2009. Qualified professionals outside the Museum staff judge all categories. Qualified professionals outside the Museum staff judge all categories.

There are seven categories in the literary competition. They include Western novel, nonfiction book, art book, photography book, juvenile book, magazine article and poetry book.

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams (McElderry, 2009) is the Outstanding Juvenile Book. The novel, published by McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, tells the story of Cam O’Mara, grandson and younger brother to championship bull riders. Cam is more interested in skateboarding and focuses on making his tricks perfect — that is until his older brother Ben comes home from the war — paralyzed.

Williams, a former elementary school teacher, writes a moving story of one family’s struggle to live with the life changing effect of war and injury. Cam promises Ben to carry on the family tradition of bull riding if Ben promises not to give up. Will 8 seconds and $15,000 help the family heal? Find out in Williams’ book written for grades 7 through 10.

Read a Cynsations interview with Suzanne.

More News & Giveaways

Cover Stories: So Punk Rock by Micol Ostow, with art by David Ostow by Melissa Walker from readergirlz. Peek: "The committee who chose the cover was torn and it took them a while to decide on the final cover because in essence, all 3 covers are very similar in their feel and look with slight variations in the imagery." Read a Cynsations interview with Micol and David.

Bologna Book Fair--Illustrators, International Youth Library and more book sightings by Sarah Johnson from Through the Tollbooth. Note: one of a series of posts that takes you inside the fair.

Constant Cussing
by Natalie Whipple from Between Fact and Fiction. Peek: "To me, swearing is like caviar or a really good bleu cheese—a little goes a long way." Source: Nathan Bransford.

The dark heart of modern fairytales: A slew of recent literary fiction with young adult protagonists is at last restoring fairytales' socially subversive origins from The Guardian. Peek: "The world of the other, of gods and demons, fairies and tricks, is there to teach us about this world, the world of families, houses, love and hate, happiness and sorrow." Source: @mitaliperkins.

Writers and Technology: a new blog by Anindita Basu Sempere. Peek: "This blog is a space in which to explore the relationship between writers and technology, covering everything from software for writers to new forms of storytelling."

Read Alikes: Ecological Disasters by Karin Librarian from Karin's Book Nook. Peek: "I love disaster movies/books. My favorite movie is 'The Day After Tomorrow' and I’m always up for a new book that throws me in a world of death and destruction."

Retelling Traditional Stories by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: "Because I was writing for an Indian publisher, I could also make some assumptions about audience. I didn't have to worry about whether readers would 'get it.' I could give myself permission to write in the kind of voice a storyteller might employ to speak to an audience, while assuming certain commonalities in framework and context." Read a Cynsations interview with Uma.

In the Past or Present by Tabitha Olson from Writer Musings. Peek: "To have a completely effective story told in present tense, the characters must be in the moment, not the author."

"It Suddenly Dawned on Her": Improving Your Character Epiphanies by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "The term 'epiphany' was originally a religious term referring to the physical appearance of a deity. In fiction, it’s the point at which truth appears before a character; the character learns or understands something." Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Russian Books for Kids
from Chicken Spaghetti. Peek: "All these great picture books concerning Russia, Russian folk tales, and Russian-American experiences."

M.T. Anderson: new official author website. Includes insights from M.T. on his books, the text of several of his speeches, including On The Intelligence of Teens. Peek: "...the one thing which still causes people pause – the final hurdle – the last frontier – the one element which still gets a few adult readers up in arms about whether a book is appropriate for kids – is intelligence." Read a Cynsations interview with M.T.

Co-op Redux
by Eric from Pimp My Novel. Peek: "In a digital environment, you won't have front-of-store promotions, aisle endcaps, or tables of discounted titles; instead, you'll have banner ads, e-couponing (those of you who subscribe to the Barnes & Noble or Borders coupon e-mails will be familiar with these), front-page splashes and placement..." Source: Elizabeth Scott. See also All About Co-op from Nathan Bransford.

Sonia Gensler: a new official site from the author of The Revenant (Knopf, 2011). Note: this author lives in Oklahoma and has a cat. Both good signs.

Thoughts on Writing: The Very First You by Seanan McGuire. Peek: "While I am happy to allow that you can definitely style yourself after someone, I don't think that anyone can be the next insert-name-here."

Author/Illustrator Reminder: you may own the copyright to your book, but you don't own it to reviews published about it. Do not republish them online (or elsewhere) without permission. Keep quotes short, attribute, and link to the source.

Congratulations to Beverly Patt on the upcoming release of Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook, (Marshall Cavendish, April 2010). Peek: "German-American Louise Kessler, 14, starts a scrapbook when her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, leaves for the Japanese internment camps. Louise’s scrapbook includes items from her life 'on the home front' as well as Dottie’s letters and drawings from the internment camp. Together, their intertwined stories tell of a friendship that even war cannot tear apart." Note: the book has already received a starred review from School Library Journal and has been named to the Great Lakes, Great Books Spring 2010 List. Read a Cynsations interview with Beverly.

Featured Sweetheart: Verla Kay from The Texas Sweethearts. Peek: "The most important thing about my [Children's Writers & Illustrators] message board (to me) is that it stays a "clean and safe" place for writers and illustrators to share information. That can be a tough job, and it's an impossible one for just one person to do." Read a Cynsations interview with Verla.

What Makes a Science Fiction/Fantasy Book YA? by Peni R. Griffin from Idea Garage Sale. Peek: "If the bearded wise man wears a lab coat, it's science fiction, even if there's no scientific justification for what he does. If he wears a robe, it's fantasy, even if the things he does are rooted in theoretical physics." Read a Cynsations interview with Peni.

Author/Illustrator Tip: when presenting with others on a panel or at a reading, be gracious, mindful, and respectful of everyone's time with the microphone. You'll be more fondly remembered by your peers and the event planner, if you do.

Jennifer Laughran, Agent Extraordinaire: an interview by Margie Gelbwasser. Peek: "I would love some funny wonderful classic-feeling Middle Grade fiction, like The Penderwicks [by Jeanne Birdsall] or Andrew Clements. It is extremely hard to write. " Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer.

How Much Can You Take? by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: " need to block out what you read about 'overnight successes' in the publishing business."

Naming Your Characters by Alex Flinn. Peek: "Characters who are outsiders or who defy trends get names that reflect that, unusual names." Read a Cynsations interview with Alex.

YALITCHAT by Kelly Hashway from Kelly Hashway's Books. Peek: "I originally thought Twitter was a place for people to post all the mundane details of their day, and yes some people do this. However, I only follow agents and other writers, and the ones I follow tend to tweet about useful things."

10 Book Design Terms Explained by Carol Brendler from Jacket Knack. Peek: "Foil: 'A metallic or pigmented coating on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping and foil embossing.'"

Canadian First Nations Literature: a celebration from Papertigers. Features include: an interview with author-Literacy advocate David Bouchard by Marjorie Coughlan; interview with Patty Lawlor, Program Coordinator of "First Nation Communities Read" by Sally Ito; and a peek into the illustrator's gallery at the work of C.J. Taylor and Julie Flett.

Win an Advanced Copy of Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader and More! Deadline April 8. Open to citizens of the U.S. and Canada.

Attention Traditionally Trade-Published Texas Children's-YA Authors & Illustrators: please check your listings on the immediately previously linked page and let me know if you have any corrections/added. Please note that the page is updated monthly. Thanks!

Reminder: this week Cynsations featured: new voice Y.S. Lee on The Agency: A Spy in the House (Candlewick, 2010)("what happened to smart, unconventional women in the period. If you weren't a good little girl, and you didn’t have a lot of money, what on earth happened to you?"); Arnold Adoff and Kacy Cook on Virginia Hamilton: Speeches, Essays, & Conversations (Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2010)("when our son, jaime, began to write and publish for young readers [see Jaime Adoff], i wanted to get out to conferences with introduce him to old friends and colleagues, share a platform, enjoy a joint reading and our spirited public conversations....i began to re-enter the world of books and publishing…"; Writing Across Formats: Marion Dane Bauer ("I don't think the emotional reality has changed for our young people, but the same emotional realities are being housed in very different vessels.); and the cover art for Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, Nov. 11, 2010)(ages 4-up).

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware by M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster). See also Jasper Dash Desktop Wallpapers.

Check out the book trailer for White Cat by Holly Black (The Curse Workers)(McElderry, 2010).

Check out this book trailer for The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf, 2009). Source: A Fuse #8 Production.

Check out the book trailer for Mistwood by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow, April 27, 2010).

Check out the latest trailer, featuring upcoming releases, from The Tenners:

In case you haven't heard, there's this series about a boy named Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic). Source: Cool Kids Read.

From Teen Librarian Adriana Melgoza

Attention YA Authors: "This summer teens at the Alhambra Civic Center Library will be invited to participate in a unique reading program called 'Making a Difference @Your Library.' We hope to encourage teens to actively participate in events that will inspire them to make a difference in their community. Part of our incentives will of course be books, so we are asking young adult authors who can spare a copy of their books (signed is better!) to please donate one to our cause. The teens and the staff at the Alhambra Library greatly appreciate all your help!" Note: "We will be running publicity in the city's community events newspaper, "Around Alhambra," and will be sure include author's names/books in our summer reading flyers and print material." Mailing address: Alhambra Civic Center Library; Attn: Adriana Melgoza; 101 S. First St.; Alhambra, CA 91801.

More Personally

What fun I had at the salon party for Maddie's Purple Party at Embellish Nails & Boutique in Westlake, Texas, in celebration of the release of Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson (Delacorte, 2010).

Our hostess was Varian's wife Crystal.

She created an amazing tie-in scrapbook for the novel.

And served cake!

Here, Crystal gives one of many purple scarves (we all got one) to Cyndi Hughes, director of the Writers' League of Texas.

We also all had manicures with purple nail polish. Here's Vanessa.

And Jo Whittemore. April Lurie and Frances Yansky are farther down.

Mary Baker of Embellish did a first-rate job.

Check out Donna Bowman Bratton's purple stylings.

And Julie Lake's.

Shalou looks at the scrapbook.

Then Varian himself arrived to join the festivities.

He chatted with the ladies.

Cake was served.

And everyone showed off their nails.

You see what I mean.

Did Varian himself get a manicure? I'll never say.

But Debbie Gonzales won the big giveaway drawing.

The rest of us received goodies, too!

Take a peek!

Then on Saturday, the action moved to BookPeople, where Varian threw a joint launch party with April Lurie.

Didn't they look nice?

Check out their books!

And cover art cake!

Crystal shoots some photos.

Tim Crow visits with Meredith Davis.

Jo shows off her new release, Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin, 2010), April's The Less-Dead, and Varian's Saving Maddie (both Delacorte, 2010). See also Coffee Break Tuesday with Jo Whittemore from Debbi Michiko Florence.

The featured authors interviewed each other.

Lindsey Lane and Greg Leitich Smith.

Frances and Brian Yansky visit with Margo Rabb.

The famous Delacorte Dames and Dude--April, Bethany Hegedus, Varian, Jenny Ziegler, and Margo.

In other news, highlights of the week included receiving these books from Richard Van Camp. Read an interview with Richard Van Camp by Judith Saltman from Papertigers. Peek: "Family, identity, culture, and the essential question: "What does it mean to be Dogrib?" I was raised away from the Dogribs because my parents were taxidermists in Forth Smith.... So, because I'm half White and half Dogrib, family and identity are recurring themes in my writing."

Even More Personally

I spent much of the week reviewing sketches for the Tantalize graphic novel, and now I'm back on deadline for the final round on Blessed (both Candlewick).

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Brigid Gorry-Hines from Cafe Skill. Peek: "I was geeky—very into comic books and 'Star Wars,' which I saw over 300 times. I drove a red 1968 Mustang Coupe. I miss that car."

In Which Kaz Reads Stuff by Karen Mahoney. Peek: "If you love vampires and werewolves but are getting a little tired of the same-old, same-old, give Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008) a shot."

Cynsational Events

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 at Alief Taylor High School, and admission is free! Speakers include keynoter Sharon Draper and Cynthia Leitich Smith.

The Texas Library Association Annual Conference will be April 14 to April 17 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Note: I'll be speaking from 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. on the "A Conversation Between Books and Technology" panel with Jay Asher, Corey Doctorow, Maureen Johnson, and Jude Watson. Then I'll sign books from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. See a schedule of Austin authors at TLA.

Release party - author Chris Barton will celebrate Shark v. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Little Brown, 2010) at 1 p.m. April 24 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.

Moments of Change: the New England SCBWI Conference will take place May 14 to May 16 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. See conference schedule, workshop descriptions, manuscript critique guidelines, and special conference offerings. See faculty bios. Note: I'm honored to be participating as a keynote speaker!

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