Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tantalize: Kieren's Story Cover Art

By Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Ming Doyle, cover by Sam Weber (Candlewick, Aug. 2011).

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win Blessed (Candlewick, 2011), an ARC of Tantalize: Kieren's Story, and more from Jen Bigheart at I Read Banned Books. U.S. only; ages 13-up. Deadline: midnight CST, April 25.

Check out the Blessed Readers' Guide.

Check out the previous books in the series, Tantalize and Eternal.

Shop the Sanguini's Store at Cafe Press; images designed by Gene Brenek.

More News & Giveaways

Top Board Books for the Youngest Readers by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Each of the books are written or illustrated by a Native author or illustrator, and in some way, they are 'tribally specific.'"

Debut Novel Expectations by R.L. LaFevers from Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "Middle grade novels in particular, rarely come out of the gate with the same big splash potential that YA novels can engender."

IBBY Asian Newsletter (PDF) from The International Board on Books for Young People.

New Agent Alert: Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates from Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents. Seeking: "literary fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, thrillers, mysteries, YA, and middle grade."

The Whole Novel Retreat, presented by the 9th Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop, will take place Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 in Santa Cruz, California. Faculty include agent Joan Slattery of Pippin Properties and Susan Van Metre, senior VP and publisher at Abrams/Amulet and an MFA instructor in Writing for Children at The New School in New York. Application deadline: May 15 (later applications will be accepted until June 25 or until the workshop is filled).

Interview with R.L. La Fevers by Jen Wrote This from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "I approach the merging of history and fiction with the idea that my first job is to tell a great story; the history must serve the story, not the other way around."

A Book By Any Cover by Deborah Heiligman from I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Note: check out the hardcover (grown-up appeal) and paperback covers (kid appeal) for her Passover and Easter books.

How Authors Get Paid from Cinda Williams Chima. Peek: "The fun begins when I discuss royalties. Royalties are monies authors get for each book sold. I say to the students, 'Let’s say you buy a hardcover book for $18. How much of that do you think the author gets?'"

Congratulations to Tim Crow, winner of the Joan Lowery Nixon Award at this spring's Houston SCBWI conference. Manuscripts are nominated by conference faculty and then a winner is chosen to work on his writing for a year with author Kathi Appelt, in memory of Joan's tradition of mentoring.

Underdogs in YA by Michael Northrop from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "There may be no other type of writing where the underdog is more common and more important, because in one way or another, almost every main character in YA is one."

More Giveaways

Enter to win an author-autographed copy of Noodle & Lou by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Arthur Howard (Beach Lane, 2011)! To enter the giveaway, comment here or email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Noodle and Lou" in the subject line. Deadline: midnight CST April 22. Note: Author sponsored; U.S.-Canadian entries only.

Note: Liz Garton Scanlon will be signing Noodle & Lou, illustrated by Arthur Howard (Beach Lane, 2011) at noon April 23 at BookPeople in Austin. See curriculum guide.

Check out Liz's Story as Author-in-Residence at ReaderKidZ. Peek: "One time I actually took in a rooster but that lasted just one night."

See also Inside the Writer's Studio with Liz Garton Scanlon by Bethany Hegedus from Writer Friendly, Bookshelf Approved. Peek: "A student asked me recently if I’d lose my job if I didn’t come up with any more good ideas. I laughed at the time, but really, that’s the secret fear in all of our hearts, isn’t it?"

Deena in Rochester, New York; is the winner an autographed copy of Odd Girl In by Jo Whittemore (Aladdin, 2011). See also Odd Girl In: a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog. Peek: "Alex and her brothers are hilarious and genuine as they navigate their way through the CHAMPS program and their sibling rivalries, and come to a greater appreciation of each other and their family."

Poetry, Prizes and a PURRfect 6-1/2 List from Author Lee Wardlaw from Donna Gephart at Wild About Words. Note: includes giveaway of Lee's Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt, 2011) and a catnip mouse.

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the video for Rotters by Daniel Kraus (Delacorte, 2011). See excerpt.



More Personally

After numerous events, I'm spending the next month deep in the revision cave, working on book 4 in the Tantalize series. Please hold off on any non-critical correspondence until I flash the green light. (By "critical," I mean you're drowning, bleeding or on fire.)

I've already posted my photo report from the Texas Library Association annual conference and the YA A to Z conference, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas. But here's a couple more fun pics from the festivities!

Joy Preble at Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar & Grill.

Margo Rabb, Varian Johnson and Mandy Robbins Taylor at the Hyatt Regency.

Thanks again to everyone involved with both conferences! See also Greg's report!

Happy Easter and a belated happy Passover to those who celebrate, and many blessings to everyone!

Cynsational Events

Chris Barton will be signing Can I See Your ID? True Stories of False Identities, illustrated by Paul Hoppe (Dial, 2011) at 7 p.m. May 14 at BookPeople in Austin. See discussion guide.

Diversity in YA Fiction: Austin Tour Stop 7:30 p.m. May 9 at BookPeople. Featuring authors With authors Bethany Hegedus, Malinda Lo, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Cindy Pon, Dia Reeves, and Jo Whittemore, and moderated by Varian Johnson.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Voice: Emily Howse on Zitface

Emily Howse is the first-time author of Zitface (Marshall Cavendish, 2011). From the promotional copy:

Thirteen-year-old Olivia Hughes knows what she wants to do with her life—be an actress. And she’s already on her way. She just landed a national ad campaign that should get her noticed.

But then her luck runs out. A little pimple turns into a full-blown case of acne, with serious side effects for her career, relationships, and budding romance with J.W., the new guy at school.

Now all Olivia wants to do is hide, but she can’t. She goes from being the girl at school everyone wants to be…to Zitface, a girl who is teased, dumped, and even fired.

What do you do when you’ve lost control of everything in your life? Olivia has to find out the hard way. And maybe, what she finds isn’t so bad after all.


How did you discover and get to know your protagonist? How about your secondary characters? Your antagonist?

Discovering my book’s characters was much easier than I’d anticipated. During previous book writing attempts, I compiled pages and pages of character traits, for every character.

Not one to embrace change, I dutifully began this same process before writing Zitface. Then I realized I didn’t need to. I related to most characters either from first-hand experience, or experience in knowing people like them. This happy revelation saved me from serious writer’s cramp…and countless hours of jotting down everyone’s likes, dislikes, favorite food, astrological sign, you name it.

Here’s what I knew, when contemplating the characters, to be true:

Olivia Hughes (13-year-old protagonist): Olivia, a likeable eighth-grader and TV commercial actress, seems to have it all. You know someone’s going down when you hear that phrase! Her world goes awry when she develops serious acne: her friendships suffer, her family’s conflicted, her career’s in jeopardy, and her romance with a studly classmate tanks.

My tween life wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I encountered similar experiences. I too was a child actress, for awhile. I was popular at my tiny Catholic elementary school in L.A.—then sunk to the bottom of the social eco-chain when my family moved to Dallas.

That geographic upheaval triggered family strife: I blamed my mom for decamping us to Texas, and hated that my dad remained mostly in L.A. (not unlike Olivia’s dad, who hightails it to Albuquerque, post-divorce). My sweet dad doesn’t resemble Olivia’s controlling father, but I’ve dated my share of sports-obsessed workaholics. As for acne: I didn’t break out during adolescence, but did big-time in my twenties (which also didn’t help my love life). Adult acne still occasionally plagues me, but it doesn’t own me—a realization Olivia comes to, as well.

Wendy Dahl (Olivia’s sometimes antagonistic friend): Wendy can’t keep quiet. Unfortunately, I suffer from that same syndrome. Over time, I’ve realized that not everyone’s interested in my take on things, so I’ve amended (somewhat) my mouthiness. Wendy isn’t there yet. She has things to say and says them, with mostly good intentions. Some characters don’t appreciate Wendy’s ego or opinion, but I can’t help rooting for her.

I consider Wendy misunderstood…which is exactly how I felt as a teen, when I shared what I considered my sparkling wit with friends and got reamed for being snarky. Unlike Wendy, I wasn’t a blonde cheerleader—I was a drill team member with a bad perm. But I get Wendy’s need to exude confidence, especially when she isn’t feeling it. Doesn’t every teen sometimes try to act cooler than they are? Wendy just does it more.

Theo Winters (O’s friend—and potential boyfriend): Theo is kinder and wiser than most people in the book, because he’s dealt with adversity and it’s made him a softer—not harder—person. Theo has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and managing a chronic disease makes him keenly aware of life’s uncertainties. Yet he appreciates life’s joys. Theo accepts his condition, experiences joy, and doesn’t shy away from his reality.

I respect this about Theo because I also have rheumatoid arthritis (though I wasn’t diagnosed until my mid-thirties). I generally accept having a condition and manage it well, but uncertainty occasionally breeds fear. RA runs an unpredictable course...it comes and goes, so it’s impossible to know exactly what’s coming next. A lot like life!

Regarding other Zitface characters, I related to them on different levels: Olivia’s aunt’s job-hopping (check!), her mom’s resistance to dating (check!), best friend Jenna’s occasional judgmental-ness (double-check!). Freud once said that, in our dreams, we are every person.

Okay, so Freud may now be considered a bit of a quack, but I think there’s a part of us—and sometimes a lot—in every character we create. Which makes writing about them all the more meaningful.

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

At an annual SCBWI conference in the 1990s, I saw Judy Blume and Paula Danziger play jacks in a hotel hallway. It was between breakout sessions, and most presenters/participants were snacking and schmoozing in the grand ballroom.

But Judy and Paula were sitting in an adjacent hall—cross-legged on the carpet—playing jacks with child-like enthusiasm. It struck me that I couldn’t imagine witnessing two prominent speakers doing this at any other type of conference.

Their gleeful focus on the game represented, to me, why we were all gathered there: because, as children’s writers, we all revel and exist, somewhat, in a youthful state. Our inner child enables us to create kidlit, and it comes alive when we do.

As someone who's the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

I love questions that allow me to kvetch! Being the primary caregiver of a young child has been the greatest boon—and bane—to my writing.

On the upside, becoming a mom (I adopted a baby girl from Kazakhstan in 2005) rebooted my urge to write. The urge had waned due to my dwindling belief that I’d ever publish a children’s book. I’d written the first draft (of many) of Zitface back in 2003. My literary agent sent the manuscript to publishers…and I received rejection letters.

After this happened many times, I abandoned writing and focused on motherhood. I decided to adopt as a single mom—and began dating my now-husband in the process.

When I wasn’t exhausted from chasing after an indefatigable toddler, I reminisced about writing. I loved being a mother, but I missed being a writer. I didn’t want to close the door on this integral part of myself. Plus, I wanted to make my daughter proud, to show her how to reach for her dreams. Not that she cared at the time. All she wanted was the television remote control, so she could chew on it.

During the early toddler phase (which seemed to last way longer than it actually did), I didn’t have the time, energy or drive to write. I gave myself a one-year writing moratorium, but kept a story-brainstorming notebook. When creativity struck, putting my ideas on paper helped me feel proactive.

As my daughter got older, I got craftier about writing. Employed as a high school counselor, I sneaked in some writing at work. A key writing survival strategy!

I staunchly defend the ethics of doing this, because I only wrote when I had downtime (who really toils every minute of every eight-hour workday?).

Unfortunately, you can only get so far writing during brief work breaks. When no students came to my office in crisis, I could produce two or three pages in a day. But it wasn’t high-quality writing. Jotting words down five minutes here, ten minutes there—and hoping your boss doesn’t discover you’re not actually working—isn’t conducive to exemplary prose.

But, at the time, it was my best option. Some people happily write at night, God bless them. When I was single, I did so as well…because I wasn’t exhausted! Only once I had a kid, my brain and body pooped out by 6 p.m. Weekend days—another great time to write, if no high-energy kid keeps jumping on your lap—occasionally proved fruitful. But more often I spent them doing mom duty at the park, birthday parties, soccer games, etc.

After two years, I quit my job and wrote at home while my daughter attended preschool. It provided me ample writing time, but it wasn’t an easy decision. It meant financial hardship and numerous budgeting discussions with my fiscally-minded husband.

Months later, Zitface was purchased by Marshall Cavendish. A lucky break.

I spent much of 2008-2010 honing the manuscript (I had no idea how involved book editing is!). But I’m not complaining. I am, in fact, working on a sequel…and seeking a part-time job. It’s time. Especially since my husband’s been a great sport about my not bringing in a regular paycheck these past few years.

For stay-at-home folks with school-age kids, writing time is obvious: do as much as possible while the kids are in school because trying to accomplish anything once they’re home is iffy, at best.

I write most days and try to start first thing in the morning, so I don’t get distracted by other tasks. Some days I don’t make it to the grocery store, and that’s okay.

I’d rather spend an hour writing than cruising the vegetable aisle. I wish I could report writing faithfully from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 pm, but that would be false. I don’t always write at the same time, or even for the same amount of time. But I devote some time to writing/editing/research most days. I’m convinced that writing—like exercise—must be habitual to be effective, so it’s better to write a little bit every day than force it in three-times-weekly chunks.

Here’s a summertime suggestion: when kiddos are out of school and the days are long: join the local Y! I had an editing deadline this past summer, and I met it by going to the gym every weekday, for two hours. Nope, I wasn’t obsessively crunching my abs or doing downward dog. I dropped my daughter off in the kid-care room, then sat down at a nearby table with my laptop and edited my heart out. Members could leave children in the designated play area for two hours (but had to remain on the premises), so I edited for ninety minutes and worked out for thirty. I did this for several weeks—and I got the editing job done.

For parents with day jobs, however, finding time to write is tricky. You have to carefully consider your schedule, identifying every possible writing opportunity.

Does your kid love long baths? Write while they’re turning prune-y in the tub. Write while your spouse cooks dinner. Write when your kids are parked in front of the TV (any parent who says they never utilize this tactic is probably lying). Write as they play in the yard. Writing on the fly isn’t ideal, but it’s doable.

And for more concentrated time, there are plenty of places your child can go have fun on the weekend: a play place, art class, sport camp, etc. This usually requires parting with money, but if you can afford it and get sufficient free time in exchange, it’s worthwhile.

And if you have multiple kids and can’t afford farming them out to various activities? Send them to their grandparents (or anyone who will take them)!

Last, but not least: forging a writing career sometimes requires—ironically—putting writing on the back-burner. Since Zitface came out April 1, I’ve temporarily traded writing for book marketing. Initially, I ambitiously presumed I could plug my debut novel and simultaneously write a sequel. I was deluding myself.

Some people excel at multitasking, but I’m not one of them. So for the next two months, I’m concentrating on promoting my work.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Author Interview: Jerry Spinelli

From Random House: "Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee (Little Brown, 1990), winner of the Newbery Medal; Wringer, a Newbery Honor Book; and Stargirl (Knopf, 2000) a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults."

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

Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself (Knopf, 2009) is the first title co-authored by my wife, Eileen Spinelli, and me.

It's nonfiction, a kind of literary daily devotional. One page per calendar date. Each page begins with a quote from a children's book, followed by commentary and resolution: "Today I will..."

My most recent novel is Smiles To Go (HarperCollins, 2008). Three main ingredients: high school kids, time, love.

Congratulations on the release of I Can Be Anything, illustrated by Jimmy Liao (Little Brown, 2010)! What was your initial inspiration for the book?

It was just a little poem I wrote maybe 15-20 years ago.

At the time it was actually a lament for the lost, original multi-taskers we are as kids--milkweed-blowers, railroad car-counters, mixing bowl lickers--"occupations" we pursue with all the focus and passion of any CEO.

Then we grow up, specialize narrowly into accountants and plumbers and clerks.

Something sad about that.

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

Eileen writes and sends poems to folks on holidays. A couple of times editors have suggested turning a poem into a picture book. With that in mind, she encouraged me to show the poem around. It was with one publisher for several years, then landed with Alvina Ling at Little, Brown. She re-cast it somewhat, essentially changing it from a wistful remembrance to a celebration. And then added the wonderful illustrator Jimmy Liao.

What did Jimmy's art bring to your text?

Jimmy's art gives it life. Jimmy's art abducts the eye and carries it along with his vision of the words. His art is the words celebrated.

Would you please tell us about the Stargirl Societies?

We first heard of a group calling themselves the Stargirl Society from a teacher in Kent, Ohio--Kathy Frazier. Intrigued, we went to Kent to see for ourselves. We found middle and high school students using my novel Stargirl (Knopf, 2000) as their guide.

They met and did Stargirl-like things: dropping loose change on sidewalks, slipping anonymous compliments into fellow students' lockers, etc. Local women of accomplishment came to speak to them. Their sub-groups were called "constellations." At year's end they held an Inner Beauty Pageant.

Since then similar Stargirl Societies have multiplied around the country and the world.

Could you tell us about your writing life? What is your typical writing day like?

Before 1989, I wrote, as one author has put it, "in the cracks." I had a 9-to-5 job, so I did my writing on my lunch hours, after dinner, on weekends--when I wasn't helping Eileen deal with our six kids. If I waited for the right time--when the kids were grown (ha! they've been succeeded by 19 grandkids), when time was plentiful, when...when--I'd still be waiting.

In 1989, I took a deep breath and quit that 9-to-5 job and went to writing full-time.

I used to write on the dining room table, the bed, wherever. Now I climb the stairs after breakfast and go to "work" in my office, in what in another house might be a guest room. (Even with the kids gone, we always inhabit a house with at least three bedrooms, so two can become our offices.)

My main writing time is in the morning. Afternoons are for errands. Evenings, I may or may not write.

I begin each morning by reading aloud to myself the previous day's work. Hearing it can help problems stand out. When I finish a chapter, Eileen reads it. I'll either rework it or move on according to her assessment. She is, in effect, my first editor.

Your first book was published in 1982. How has children's-YA book publishing changed since that time?

I'm a poor historian of my own field. Unlike some of my fellow storytellers, I'm not much into the business and teaching aspects of what I do.

In the beginning I was so naive that when I saw a review listing my first published book, Space Station Seventh Grade (Little, Brown, 1982) as "YA," I called my editor and asked her what it meant--and what was meant by the little black star that came with the review.

I do recall that after having several titles published, my proposal for another was turned down because, I was told, my YA well had run dry. This was shortly before Maniac Magee won the Newbery Medal.

I might add that, frankly, I've never really been sure what exactly YA means, what are its parameters. I'm often asked, "What age group do you write for?" I don't write for any "age group." I understand that publishers and booksellers must pay attention to such things, but I take my cue not so much from a projected readership as from the story itself.

When a story idea visits me, I, so to speak, take it out to lunch. I talk to it. Ask it questions. "What do you mean?" "Where did you come from?" "What's the best way to tell you?"

The answers to those questions are what guide me.

How have you changed as an author? As a writer?

Space Station Seventh Grade (1982) was my first published book--and the fifth that I had written. The first four provoked enough rejection slips to paper our house. In those days, I think I tried to be perfect. I remember once taking a month to craft a single metaphor.

Somewhere along the line I must have discovered that writing isn't mathematics. It's not marching, it's dancing. The faster I wrote the better I got.

You received a Newbery Award for Maniac Magee (Little, Brown, 1990) and a Newbery Honor for Wringer (HarperTeen, 1997). Could you share any memories of those experiences?

The Maniac Magee call woke us up in the middle of the night. We didn't get back to bed till 6 a.m., and then only for a half-hour. The phone rang constantly. The living room smelled like a funeral parlor from all the flowers. No TV for me, as the Gulf War had just begun and was monopolizing the morning shows.

"Maniac Magee" became an answer on "Jeopardy."

The South African government ordered and distributed copies in their efforts to transition away from apartheid.

Individual readers and organizations launched runs and other projects in support of the homeless.

A letter told me of a classroom in Georgia voting to forgo lunch so the teacher could continue reading the book aloud to them.

What does having received such a high level of recognition mean to you now?

Readers!

Sometimes you put on a writing-teacher hat. Could you tell us more about that?

I didn't have the sense to attend writers conferences when I was struggling to get published.

These days I often find myself on the faculty of the week-long summer Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua in Chautauqua, NY. It's the best one I know.

The faculty, editors and authors, even sit and eat all meals with conferees, not each other. Aspiring writers get more than information; they get a hug and a rejuvenated spirit.

As a reader, so far, what are your favorite children's-YA books of 2010-2011 and why?


Uh-oh. As I said, I'm primarily a storyteller--and grandfather and berry picker and train rider--but not much of a reader, at least not of "children's books," except for those of my favorite writer, Eileen Spinelli.

I guess for my recreational reading, I find the need to get out of my own arena, to play in another sandbox. So, sorry on that one.

(And if you want to know my favorite book of Eileen's, it's her masterpiece When You Are Happy, illustrated Geraldo Valerio (Simon & Schuster, 2006).)

What can your fans look forward to next?

Hokey Pokey, a novel depicting childhood as more of a place than a time, in which Childhood itself might be said to be the main character. Knopf/Random House will publish it in 2012.

Jake and Lily, a novel about brother-sister twins born on the California Zephyr as it sped through the Moffat Tunnel in Colorado, to be published by HarperCollins in 2012.

Third Grade Angels, a prequel to Fourth Grade Rats (Scholastic, 1991).

Cynsational Notes

Eileen and Jerry Spinelli Classroom Cast from Random House.

Guest Post: N.L. Sharp on A Novel Journey: Three Retreats for MG & YA Writers

By N. L. Sharp

"When will you take your novel retreats on the road?"

I laugh every time someone asks me that question. Since my current set of retreats is entitled "A Novel Journey," I suppose it would make sense. And perhaps, some day, I will, when my own writing dictates it's time.

But I'm not ready for that yet. After all, I am not a conference organizer. I am a writer, working on a series of novels I hope to see published soon. And the retreats are just one of the tools I use to motivate me when my writing is in a slump and I'm ready to quit.

I organized my first set of retreats several years ago after I had spent some time playing the "What if?" game in regard to the perfect writing workshop—for me.

What if I could find a class where everyone in attendance was working on a middle grade or YA novel, and we all agreed to meet a couple times a year to share our drafts and to study the craft of writing for children.

Then, after a year or so, we would sit down with someone in the industry (an agent or an editor) to discuss our W-I-P; someone who could really help us move toward our ultimate goal of publication.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. And when I shared the idea with a few of my writing friends, they all said they couldn't wait to sign up for such a class, as soon as I had it organized! Therefore, my first set of novel retreats was born.

The retreats were a huge success, with a total of twenty-three other writers from ten different states joining me to learn the "secrets of success" from our talented and knowledgeable speakers. And several of us continue, to this day, to meet on a regular basis to share our writing.

But lately, I have been feeling a bit restless and in need of that additional emotional writing charge that I received from my participation in the first set of retreats. And when a few of the other participants asked me if I would repeat them, I knew the time was right to organize a new series of retreats.

The purpose for the first set of retreats was to prove to each and every one of us in attendance that yes—we could actually write a novel in a year's time, with the support of a strong writing community. The focus of this new set of retreats is to answer the question "Where? Where does our work fit in the literary world and where will it find a home?"

Therefore, in this set of retreats, there will be a strong emphasis on what is being published in middle grade and YA and how do we, as writers, select an agent to represent our work to this market.

Every journey begins with a single step. I know that. But I have discovered that those steps are much easier to take if I am traveling with companions who share my passion and interest in writing for children. For me, that's the only way to travel!

Cynsational Notes

N. L. Sharp is the author of three picture books and the coordinator for A Novel Journey, a series of three retreats for middle grade and YA writers.

Retreat # 1: Writing for Today’s Market is scheduled for June 22 to June 24, 2011.

Retreat # 2: Revision, Revision, Revision is scheduled for Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, 2012.

Retreat #3: Marketing to Agents is scheduled for June 20 to June 22, 2012.

Featured agents will be Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency and Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. Learn more about Ammi-Joan and Marietta.

The retreats will be held at St. Benedict Retreat Center on Highway 15 north of Schuyler, Nebraska.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Texas Library Association & Writers' League of Texas YA A to Z Conferences


Wow! What a week it's been here in Austin, Texas!

The festivities kicked off Tuesday night at a swanky cocktail party in celebration of the release of Blessed, hosted by Candlewick Press, at Truluck's Seafood, Steak & Crab House. Appetizers included Blue Crab and Gulf Shrimp Rangoons as well as Creamy Blue Crab Dip.

Thank you to Candlewick and everyone who joined in on the festivities!

Thanks also to CP and librarian guests at lovely dinner Thursday night at Eddie V's!

Additional thanks go to the TLA Young Adult Round Table for--well, too much to list--but especially for coordinating the teens/YA reader-author program and the super fun dinner Wednesday night at Hickory Street Bar & Grill.

On Wednesday morning, I signed books at the Texas Library Association annual conference. Thank you to everyone who attended my signing in the Author Signing Area!

Here's a shot of my Tantalize series books on display at the Candlewick booth along with Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences by Brian Yansky (Candlewick, 2010).

Nikki Loftin and Austin SCBWI RA Debbie Gonzales at the Texas SCBWI Booth.

HarperCollins editor Rosemary Brosnan at the Harper booth.

Author-librarian Debbie Leland.

Austin SCBWI ARA Carmen Oliver and children's author Kelly Bennett.

Author Chris Barton signs at the Charlesbridge booth.

Illustrator Don Tate and author Audrey Vernick show off their picture book, She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story (HarperCollins, 2010).

Austinites gather before the Joint Publisher Party in the lobby lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

Authors Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover set up for their signing.

Agent Erin Murphy. Clients of Erin Murphy Literary Agency gathered the following weekend in Austin for a writing retreat and hosted a wine social at BookPeople.

Madeline Smoot of CBAY Books.

On Friday afternoon, the YA writing scene shifted to the YA A to Z conference, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas. Here's a peek out the window at the Hyatt Regency.

My personal highlights included interviewing Gail Giles and speaking on a graphic novel panel with Hope Larson.

Author Mari Mancusi, Delacorte editor Fran├žoise Bui, and author April Lurie.

Authors Jeanette Larson, Jessica, and Sarah Bird.

WestSide editor Evelyn Fazio and author Beth Felbaum.

Authors Tim Wynne-Jones and Uma Krishnaswami.

Thank you to the Writers' League staff, faculty, and attendees for a terrific weekend!
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