Wednesday, December 07, 2011

New Voice: Kiki Hamilton on The Faerie Ring

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Kiki Hamilton is the first-time author of The Faerie Ring (Tor, 2011). From the promotional copy:

The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. 

One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. 

For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood.

Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist. 

Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty…

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

My research was multi-pronged for The Faerie Ring as I had to research Victorian London along with the history of faeries. Luckily, I found both to be fascinating topics!

I wrote the first draft of The Faerie Ring in a fairly short amount of time, then in revision, spent time enriching the historical details and checking for accuracy.

For London, I’d never been there when I started writing, and actually didn’t know anything about the city. It was really quite fortuitous that I set my main character living in Charing Cross railway station, which is the true heart of London and the point from which all distances are measured to this day.

My story is considered historical fantasy, so I’ve worked hard to keep all historical facts accurate. The Faerie Ring is set in 1871 because that’s the year one of my characters, Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, was 18.

My research was conducted through a variety of sources – several books were a wonderful resource: What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England by Daniel Pool (Simon & Schuster, 1993) and Victorian London, The Tale of a City 1840-1870 by Liza Picard (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005). Additionally, I used online resources, including Google Earth.

After I’d sold the book, but before I’d worked on any editorial revisions, I had the opportunity to visit London for the first time. It was a wonderful experience and probably my greatest coup in writing this book.

As everyone knows, London is an ancient city with so much history oozing out of the buildings and sidewalks, it can’t help but to inspire a writer! I got to walk in Tiki’s footsteps (my main character) from Charing Cross to St. James Park to Buckingham Palace and more. The trip was surreal and fantastic and very beneficial in filling in some of the more oblique, but still very important, details.

For faeries, I did a ton of research into the wide and varied history within the British Isles through a combination of online research and books. Additionally, part of the world is completely imagined - one that I’ve envisioned and created – based on folklore and the lives of my characters.

Of course, some of the roadblocks I faced are the fact that I’m writing about an era that I can never actually visit and a race (faeries) that are imagined, so much of what I’m writing about is created out of whole cloth, but needs to retain the flavor of actual history in a palatable way for contemporary readers. But for a fantasy writer – that’s the fun part!

Kiki on the blue bridge in St. James Park with Buckingham Palace in the distance.
How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Through the generosity of other authors, there is quite a bit of information out on the web that gives ideas of how to best promote a debut book. Based on this, I knew that I would need a website before I started querying agents.

The hard part when you start a website is finding content (at least it was for me) so it’s important to allow yourself enough time to create your online presence. I started more than a year before I sold my book.

I am also thrilled to be part of the Class of 2k11, which is a group of seventeen authors whose books debut in 2011. Our class follows a model that was started in 2007 by Greg R. Fishbone and has had subsequent classes each year.

We work together to market and spread the word about our books. Not only is it more fun to spread the good news about our books as a group, but it is a wonderful support network to share the ups and downs of our path to publication.

The Class of 2k11 has had the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of the Class of 2k10 as we will be assisting the Class of 2k12.

Additionally, I’ve been part of The Elevensies, which is a much larger group of debut authors (90+ members) who also have a “share the journey” mentality and act as a great resource to post to an online forum about what we’ve learned as we progress to our release dates, as well as having a safe place to ask questions or share good and bad news.

Some of the things I have found most effective to promote The Faerie Ring have been my website and blog. I try to post three times a week on a variety of writing-related topics.

At first, it’s kind of hard work as you find your voice, but over time it becomes easier and it’s been fun to slowly watch my readership grow. Along with my official author website, I've created a website specific to The Faerie Ring series, and I’ve created a website for contests.

The great part of this is that I use Blogger, which allows one to easily change and update content, plus, lets you create websites for free.

Bookmarks and postcards have been very popular, and I’ve distributed those around the world, which is kind of fun to think about. I also have buttons, which seem to be in demand, so I have an easy contest for those once a month.

Some of the most influential support I’ve received has been from the blog community. I had no idea that such a fantastic and vast network of readers existed, and I have been surprised many times by their kindness and support. Bloggers offer the opportunity to spread the word about your book through weekly memes such as Waiting on Wednesday, which highlight the book that blogger is most anticipating, as well as interviews, features and blog tours.

Additionally, there is the power of Twitter and Facebook. Social networking tools like these connect you to an amazing number of people that you would otherwise never encounter. Most people tend to prefer one medium over the other (I prefer Twitter – once you get the hang of talking in small bites of conversation), but you can set your account so one feeds to the other automatically, thereby giving you a presence in both places. The hardest part becomes time management

I guess the biggest bit of advice I’d give is to take the slow and steady approach. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is an online presence. Take your time, meet new friends, build your presence at a pace that is comfortable for you and most of all – one that you can maintain consistently over time. Friends and readers will follow.

Also, I’ve made contact with my local booksellers and teen librarians to let them know of The Faerie Ring and that I’m available for discussion panels, etc.

Finally, I have been very fortunate to have the fantastic support of my team at Tor Teen: my editor, Susan Chang, the publisher, Kathleen Doherty and my publicist, Alexis Nixon, who have provided me with the opportunity to do pre-release signings of advanced reader copies (a pre-publication paperback proof of The Faerie Ring) at Book Expo America and the annual American Library Association conference, which was an unbelievably rewarding and exciting experience.

Having fans line up for a book that hasn’t even released yet is probably every author’s wildest dream!

Cynsational Notes

Follow Kiki at Twitter and friend her at facebook.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Guest Post: Illustrator Ellen Beier on The Christmas Coat

By Ellen Beier
for Cynsations

When I first read Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve’s picture book manuscript, The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood (Holiday House, 2011), I was taken back in time to the South Dakotan snow-covered prairie of the 1940s.

I could hear the wind in the hills, see smoke rising from scattered houses on the reservation.

And in my imagination I saw Virginia struggling against the cold, her bare wrists exposed in her tight, too-small coat.

I felt her aching for a coat that fit, her brother’s longing for boots, the children’s unchecked delight at the arrival of “Theast” boxes–filled with gifts of donated clothing–as they simultaneously counted down the days to Christmas.

But as I read and re-read the story, in preparation for making sketches, my mind kept playing tricks on me. From the '40s I periodically traveled forward to my own childhood several decades later, to the suburban New York City neighborhood where I was raised, where most of our parents were German immigrants, many of them Holocaust survivors living life in a new world–not rich, but having enough of what was needed, clothes that fit and ample room for hope.

This was America, was it not –the promised land of opportunity? So what of this Native American community, the first peoples, struggling so steadfastly against the tide of poverty?

I immersed myself then in learning about the history of the Lakota Sioux, from the voices of those who were there. I read books such as My People the Sioux by Luther Standing Bear (Bison Books, 2006) and Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge by Vic Glover (Native Voices, 2004).

I read everything written by Virginia, her picture books, The Chichi Hoohoo Bogeyman (University of Nebraska Press, 2008), her history of the Sioux Episcopal priests, and the beautiful account of her family's history through the stories of her grandmothers, mother, and herself, Completing the Circle (University of Nebraska Press, 1998). From that book I came to understand the complicated mixture of Native American custom and Christian religion, of devastating loss as well as embracing family ties, that nurtured Virginia's childhood in South Dakota in the 20th century.

I traveled through South Dakota using Google maps and images. . . and found a blog written by summer-students volunteering in the author's home town, with posted photos of Virginia's school–the very one she attended as a child. I studied the effects of dusk-light upon snow, the patterns of the star quilt, the faces of Sioux heroes.

Using my notes, history books, online sources and photos provided by Virginia, I painted the illustrations for The Christmas Coat with as much detail as possible, to bring her story fully to life.

Having gathered more material than could fit in the 32-page book, I set up a blog/website celebrating The Christmas Coat with recipes, coloring pages, meet the author and illustrator, and the making of the book (with more activities to come).

Ellen's desktop.

I hope you will love The Christmas Coat, a story of longing, patience, spirituality and family, by a master storyteller, and come visit us on the blog.

Cynsational Notes

Spotlight on Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve from Holiday House. Peek: "The most difficult part was keeping the text to picture book length."

Ellen's studio.

Monday, December 05, 2011

New Voice: A. LaFaye on Walking Home to Rosie Lee

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

A. LaFaye is previously published in the novel, but Walking Home to Rosie Lee, illustrated by Keith D. Shepherd (Cinco Puntos, 2011) is her debut picture book. From the promotional copy:

Young Gabe’s is a story of heartache and jubilation. He’s a child slave freed after the Civil War, and he sets off to reunite himself with his mother who was sold before the war's end. 

“Come morning, the folks take to the road again, singing songs, telling stories and dream-talking of the lives they’re gonna live in freedom. And I follow, keeping my eyes open for my mama. 

"Days pass into weeks, and one gray evening as Mr. Dark laid down his coat, I see a woman with a yellow scarf ‘round her neck as bright as a star. I run up to grab her hand, saying, Mama?” 

Gabe's odyssey in search for his mother has an epic American quality, and Keith Shepherd’s illustrations—influenced deeply by the narrative work of Thomas Hart Benton—fervently portray the struggle in Gabe’s heroic quest.

Looking back, are you surprised to debut in 2011, or did that seem inevitable? How long was your journey, what were the significant events, and how did you keep the faith?

It seems almost fitting that Walking Home to Rosie Lee had a long journey to publication when you consider that it’s about a type of journey that was much longer and more difficult and silent within the pages of children’s literature.

As a historical fiction writer, I’m always looking for untold stories. Or better yet, stories that have been told, but not widely shared within the children’s literature community.

The story of family reunification among African Americans who had been enslaved has been told within that community from family to family, generation to generation, and the pages of history books by influential African American historians like John Hope Franklin.

Still, the story has not been retold often in children’s book, and it’s such a story of triumph and hope and perseverance that I wanted it to be shared and celebrated. And since it’s been a question I’ve had reverberating in my throat since I was a child, it’s no surprise that I wanted to know–why?

The picture book is dedicated by LaFaye's daughter Adia.
What kept this story out of children’s books for so long? Sadly, I found out that one of the reasons was that many editors did not see this as a unique chapter in the history in the story of African American history.

Most of the editors who rejected the manuscript said that they already had too many stories on the subject.

They lumped my manuscript into the category of “slavery” rather than seeing it as celebration of a unique aspect of the Reconstruction period.

In my research, I found that the period during the Civil War and shortly there after contained a wealth of stories of African American trials and triumph that should be celebrated in literature. For instance, why aren’t there more books about the struggle to establish African American schools, Freedman’s Bureaus that truly served the needs of the African American community (many were run corruptly by European Americans), Exodusters, and bi-cultural communities that strived to make American’s ideal of equality for all a reality?

There are excellent examples of books about this era, including picture books (I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Trophy, 2000) and Band of Angels by Deborah Hopkins, illustrated by Raul Colon (Atheneum, 1999)), novels (Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriette Fillem Robinet (Aladdin, 2000)) and nonfiction (Into the Land of Freedom by Meg Green (Lerner, 2004)).

At the same time, there are nowhere near the number of books that the complex tapestry of this era deserves.

I couldn’t find a single book about the reunification of African American families during reconstruction, so I wanted to write one to “get the ball rolling," as it were.

I hope and pray that my book will inspire others to write about this trying and triumphant era of African American history.

I’ll leave the story of how Rosie Lee finally found its way into print for a later question in honor of the editor and publisher who finally saw the importance of bringing this story out into the world, Lee Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press.

As far as keeping the faith goes, I’m no expert at it, but I am quite experienced. I’ve always taken the road less traveled, mostly because I know I’ll learn new things going that way.

Taking that route often meant that I had great trouble finding sources when I did research, found it hard to convince an editor to see the value in my story, and had great difficulty in finding readers to follow me down that path. The readers that could find my work generally loved it, but I’ve struggle for over a decade to find a wide readership.

I often explain to folks that I’m more of a “writer’s writer” like the character actors we recognize when we see them and admire for their work, but we really don’t follow their career.

I’m hoping that this book will find a wider reading audience and hopefully bring more readers to my other books.

Speaking of which, one of those books Stella Stands Alone (Aladdin, 2010) is the whole reason Rosie Lee came to be. Well, that book and Susan Campell Bartoletti, author of They Called Themselves The KKK (Houghton Mifflin, 2010). More on that in my answer to the next question.

As a historical fiction writer, what drew you first-character, concept, or historical period? In whichever case, how did you go about building your world and integrating it into the story? What were the special challenges? Where did you turn for inspiration or support?

Susan Campell Bartoletti, a dear friend and excellent teacher, once said that if you’re going to do all of the research for a historically themed book, you should write more than one book based on that research. That makes sense. You’ve done all the research. Why not look at the material from more than one perspective?

After all, history is all about perspective. Looking at the same event from multiple perspectives allows us to see how different the same historical event/period could have been for the many different people who experienced it. I’d done a lot of research for each of my historical novels, but I’d never been able to follow Susan’s advice until I wrote Stella Stands Alone (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

Set in Mississippi just after the Civil War, the novel tells the story of Stella Reid, who inherits the family plantation when her father is murdered for trying to divide the place up amongst the people his father (Stella’s grandfather) had enslaved.

Stella fights crooked bankers, malicious plantation owners, and the KKK to make good on her father’s promise.

I wrote the novel because I wanted to explore what would have happened if individual planters had made good on Sherman’s promise of “40 acres and a Mule” before President Andrew Johnson repealed it.

In the process of writing the novel, I uncovered two areas of history that I felt needed to be shared—one to be condemned, the other to be celebrated—forced apprenticeships and family reunification.

At the end of the Civil War, plantation owners pulled out all the stops to force the African Americans they had enslaved to remain indebted to them—each institution worse than the last, destroying marriage records kept by Union officers, refusing to issue marriage licenses, demolishing schools, share cropping, fear tactics like the KKK, and the list continues.

One thing they did that I had never even heard about before was forced apprenticeships where they had a child (who could have two living parents) declared a ward of the state because the parents couldn’t produce a birth certificate or a marriage license, then forced the child to work for free until his/her 21st birthday. Some parents were coerced into agreeing to these apprenticeships. Most fought for years to regain custody of their own children.

I incorporated this horrible practice into the story by having Stella’s best friend forced into an apprenticeship while her mother, Rosie, was away trying to find the three sons she was torn away from when her owner lost her in a poker game and sent her upriver to work on another plantation.

The story of Rosie and her three boys lead to the story of Rosie Lee and her son Gabriel in Walking Home to Rosie Lee. I wanted the story of family reunification to reach more readers, so I wrote it in picture book form from a new perspective, that of a young boy searching for his mother.

To write Gabriel’s story, I drew from the research I had done for Stella Stands Alone through historical records, museums, history books, and articles. So much of the story of these families didn’t make it into print, so most of the details I had to piece together from a myriad of stories within partial tales left behind in want ads (looking for lost family relatives in African American newspapers), vague descriptions of Freedman’s Bureau, petitions for marriage licenses, and personal stories like that of William Stillwell, an abolitionist who fought for decades to reunite his own family.

It’s my sincere hope that my story can hold a candle to the courage, hope, and determination of all the people who struggled through so much to reunite their families.

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?

The editor for Walking Home to Rosie Lee was Lee Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press. I first came to know of Ms. Byrd and her publishing company through a writer friend of mine, Eve Tal, author of Cursing Columbus (Cinco Puntos Press, 2009).

Eve had asked me for advice on her debut novel Double Crossing (Cinco Puntos Press, 2007), and when the book came out, Lee Byrd asked me to write a blurb for the back cover. I admired the Byrds' commitment to telling unique stories, untold chapters of history, and keeping the independent spirit of publishing alive.

When I first sent the manuscript to Lee, she wrote back to say how much the story had touched her, but that she was going to pass on the story because Cinco Puntos hadn’t published any books focusing on African American history and wasn’t sure they’d have the grounding to promote the book.

Several months later, I saw Lee at a conference. We talked, and she told me that she hadn’t returned the manuscript to me because she found that she often went back to reread the story because it had touched her. I encouraged her to listen to the voice that told her it was a manuscript that was not only worth reading, but also re-reading—the hallmark of a great picture book, in my mind.

Not to mention being a distinction that I found humbling. It’s always an honor when something you’ve written resonates enough with readers to make them want to return to the story you’ve shared with them.

Lee reminded me that Cinco Puntos hadn’t published a book in this area before, and I suggested that there’s always a first time and that they’d proven with other books like Crossing Bok Chitto (written by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jean Rorex Bridges -- Cinco Puntos 2006) that they could branch out into new subject areas and do very well.

She agreed that I might have something there and promised to show the book to her husband and son (Cinco Puntos is a family run company out of El Paso, Texas) and see where that might lead.

It led to them signing on the book and finding an illustrator like Keith Shepard who was ready to illustrate his first book.

So this book is a debut on three counts—my first picture book, Keith’s first book ever, and Cinco Puntos first title focusing on African American history.

It’s my hope that it’s the first in a long line of good books for all of us!

Cynsational Notes

A. LaFaye recommends The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Peek: "...the National Museum of African American History and Culture should be a place of meaning, of memory, of reflection, of laughter, and of hope. It should be a beacon that reminds us of what we were; what challenges we still face; and point us towards what we can become."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Giveaway: The Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen

Enter to win an author-signed copy of The Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, 2011).

From the promotional copy:

Ruthie's grandma is in the hospital, not surprisingly complaining about the food. All she wants is a nice bowl of borscht. 

Ruthie comes to the rescue, even though she hasn't the faintest idea of how to make it. 

With the help of a few well-meaning neighbors (including the Tsarina of Borscht and the Empress of Borscht and some ingenuity of her own), a soul-reviving brew is concocted...

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with "The Princess of Borscht" in the subject line.

Author-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Dec. 12.

Cynsational Notes

The New York Times Book Review raved, "Schubert ('Ballet of the Elephants') turns the story of a sick relative, not a particularly cheery topic, into a sweet and salty tale, warmed by Christensen’s lively sketches, about bickering Jewish neighbors and intergenerational caregiving."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Giveaway: Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be

Enter to win one of two copies of Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be by John Harris, illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Peachtree, 2011).

The unexpected story of the creation of a holiday classic - in the most unlikely of places.

It is November 1857 in Savannah, Georgia, and the heat is stifling. Choir director James Lord Pierpont is busy writing a song for the children of the church to perform to usher in the holiday season.

He is also worried. Many townspeople are angry because the congregation does not believe in slavery, and someone has thrown a brick through one of the church windows.

As Mr. Pierpont sweeps up the glass from the broken window, he recalls his own Boston childhood, the sound of sleigh bells, and the fun of riding in a sleigh through the snow. 

Suddenly he gets an idea. A few days later - with the happy sounds of children singing and jingling bells and bags of "snow" - Mr. Pierpont introduces the delighted churchgoers to the charms of a northern Christmas!

To enter, comment on this post (click preceding link and scroll) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with "Jingle Bells" in the subject line. Publisher-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Dec. 12.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Edited by Aubrey Poole.
Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Interview with Sourcebooks Editor Aubrey Poole by L.B. Schulman from EMU's Debuts. Peek: "Previously published authors know the ropes and have experience with the editing and publishing process. But there’s nothing more exciting than that first call to an author to tell them that we want to acquire their book(s). That’s the best part of my job." See also Writers Links: Editors & Publishers.

3 Reasons to Have a Website if You're Unpublished from Jane Friedman. Peek: " still need to learn new systems and become accustomed to new tools. Don’t wait to start this process until the day you need a site. Educate yourself in advance." See also Writers Links: Promotion.

Interview with Karen Lotz of Candlewick/Walker Books by C.M. Rubin from The Huffington Post. Peek: "Every department at Candlewick is involved in making sure that the quality of our e-books is superb and equivalent in every possible way to our beautiful print editions. It is a much more intensive process than simply scanning a page and distributing it in digital form. One aspect of e-books that we have agonized over is typography..."

Thoughts on Scene Structure from Lena Coakley. Peek: "Now, I had been writing a long time—an embarrassingly long time—before I figured out that a scene needs structure in the same way that a complete novel does." See also Perspiration: Self Study.

Are You on Twitter? Dianne de las Casas, author and founder of Picture Book Month, suggests promoting picture books this holiday season with the hash tag #giftakidlitbook.

Black Friday Proves a Dickensian Start to Holidays by Judith Rosen with reporting by Claire Kirch, Marc Schultz, and Wendy Werris from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Several stores have been so encouraged by sales this year that they are planning to expand to fill the void left by Borders." Source: Harold Underdown of The Purple Crayon: A Children's Book Editor's Site.

1rst 50 entrants will receive this book!
Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest hosted by Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and Gotham Writers' Workshop. Prizes include manuscript critique by or pitch session with literary agent Regina Brooks, feedback from major house editors, a free, 10-week writing course, courtesy of Gotham Writers' Workshop, and more! Source: SCBWI: The Blog.

Reminder: authors/illustrators do not own the copyright to others' (professional or informal) reviews of their work. Keep quotes short for fair use and attribute sources with a link. Under no circumstances should you reproduce the review in full on or offline without express permission.

Children's Book Council Holiday Art Auction:  The Children's Book Council has contributed five pieces from its historic collection of original art, created exclusively for the CBC in honor of Children's Book Week by Ellen Raskin, Don Freeman, William Pene du Bois, Ray Cruz, and Jose Aruego. Funds raised will benefit Every Child a Reader. Deadline to bid is midnight Dec. 15.

On Gender and Writing: Ellen Renner from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: "I believe that almost all of us, however pro-female we believe ourselves to be, are so conditioned by the constant bombardment of overt and subtle messages in every aspect of our society about the relative value of the male versus the female that we subconsciously take a story written by a man more seriously than we would the same story written by a woman. I don't think J.K. Rowling's books would have been as successful had she published them as Joanne." See Exploring Diversity: Themes and Communities.

A Digital Revelation by Lindsey Lane from ALSC Blog. Peek: "When I stepped in front of the audience to give my presentation, I knew that everyone in that room was on a tremendous learning curve. And we were on it together."

It Started with a Picture Book by Greg Leitich Smith from ALSC Blog. Peek: "I realized that if I wanted to portray dinosaurs realistically and compellingly, I would have to learn not just all the things I didn’t know, but all the things I didn’t know I didn’t know, although I was somewhat daunted by the amount of work that would require." Reminder: authors and illustrators (and other children's-YA book professionals, as he's planning to expand it soon) are invited to send Greg a photo of themselves with any image (from museum to toy) of a prehistoric creature for his related online celebration.

Focus on Children's-YA Nonfiction with Agent Ken Wright and Authors Steve Sheinkin, Marc Aronson, and Deborah Heiligman by Barbara Krasner from The Whole Megillah. Peek: "When I was at Scholastic I was the editorial director for nonfiction books. When I left to become an agent, it seemed to me that many of the nonfiction authors I’d worked with as an editor, or I knew of by reputation, were either unrepresented or under-represented, and it seemed like a good opportunity for them, and for me, to focus on trying to help them with their careers." See also Writers Links: Agents.

Marking/Publicity Intern position available at Lee & Low Books. Peek: "Tasks include but are not limited to researching and qualifying leads through mailings and web-based research and corresponding with reviewers." Note: New York City based; 20 hours a week; unpaid but weekly stipend (may be done for academic credit).

YA Saves T-shirt by Maureen Johnson available for sale: 100 percent of proceeds will go to Reading Is Fundamental. Peek: "Founded in 1966, RIF is the oldest and largest children's and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States."

Reader Guides: Pick Your Pleasure by Debbie Gonzales from ALSC Blog. Peek: "(Academic) Guides such as these tend to be crafted with a more scholarly approach, written to support the educator’s measurement of a reader’s comprehension, cross-curricular understanding, and/or thinking skills. The page count for Academic Guides can run from 15 pages to well over 200."

Rethinking the Familiar Book Tour by Joanne Kaufman from The Wall Street Journal. Peek: "The shop would sponsor only author events that featured a conversation or a mini-lecture, a PowerPoint presentation or perhaps a slide show, all followed by a question-and-answer session and—at most—the recitation of a paragraph or two from the book to illustrate a point." Source: April Henry.

Congratulations to Christopher S. Jennings on the sale of Hello, Texas! illustrated by David Walker (Sterling), to Scholastic Book Fairs. Learn more about the book.

Beyond Visual Literacy by Uma Krishnaswami from Write at Your Own Risk. Peek: "Its future is obviously tied up with the future of the book itself. But as with hybrid cars, we haven't quite found the right combination of green, cheap, tough, and accessible, not yet." See also Picture Books A-L and Picture Books M-Z.

Children's Poets Joan Bransfield Graham, April Halprin Wayland and Janet Wong on the Writing Process by Michelle Markle from The Cat and the Fiddle. Peek from April: "I love with working with the online and several online rhyming dictionaries, including"

Don't miss the weekly roundup at Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.

Picture Book Month

Magick 4 Terri: A Fundraiser to Benefit Terri Windling

See more information; available items include:

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win a critique by Peggy of a nonfiction picture book manuscript or the first three chapters of a longer nonfiction manuscript and a signed copy of Anatomy of Nonfiction by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas (Writers Institute Publications, 2011).

To enter, comment on this post (click previous link and scroll to comment) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or you can email Cynthia directly with "Anatomy of Nonfiction" in the subject line.

Author-sponsored. Deadline: Dec. 12. Eligibility: international. Anyone can enter! However, the manuscript must be written in English. See also more from Peggy on The Anatomy of Nonfiction.

Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Home for the Holidays: Mother-Daughter Book Club #5 by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster, 2011)(excerpt), plus a copy of the newly released Betsy-Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace, illustrated by Lois Lenski (HarperCollins, 2011) and the first two Betsy-Tacy high school books, in a special Betsy-Tacy canvas bag! Note: in this story, the club is reading the Betsy-Tacy books!

Two additional winners will also receive a signed copies of Home for the Holidays!

To enter, comment on this post (click previous link and scroll to comment) and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with "Mother-Daughter Book Club" in the subject line.

Author-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S./Canada. Deadline: midnight CST Dec. 14.

This Week's Cynsations Posts
Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Legend by Marie Lu (Putnam, 2011), and review the novel for a chance to win a Bag of Books from Young Adult Books Central.

A video interview with Atinuke by Ed Spicer from Spicy Reads. Peek: "I don't think that one can live in Nigeria or write about Nigeria or even Africa and ignore the great difference between the poor and the middle class." See also a new video interview by Ed with Mitali Perkins.

This weekend, I also saw the film "Hugo." See My Impressions of "Hugo" from Educating Alice.

More Personally

It's a rainy day.
A quiet week here, filled mostly with writing, critiquing, promotion, and a lovely online chat with The Apocalypsies. Seek out and and support new voices!

Why Picture Books are Important by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Picture Book Month. Peek: "Upon my arrival in the library, I ran for Sendak’s masterpiece. And fell more deeply in love."

My YA short story, "Haunted Love" may be pre-ordered for free download on Dec. 13 from and UK (click for direct links to the respective purchase pages). The story is set in the Tantalize series universe and features new characters. It's fairly lengthy for a short story and is probably best described as a mystery-romance. More on that soon!

Publishers Weekly says of Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story, edited by Kelly Milner Halls (Chronicle, 2012): "’s impossible to know everything someone is thinking and feeling—even when you are in a relationship together. This important idea is executed with finesse throughout." Note: the collection includes "Mooning Over Broken Stars" by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Regular Cynsations readers may notice more attributions on the posts. It's in response to an increase in them being lifted and distributed under other blogs' banners. Please note that Cynsations posts may not be republished without express written consent of Cynthia Leitich Smith and in a manner that makes the original authorship(s) clear.

On a more cheerful note, you'll also notice more links to Children's & YA Lit Resources on my main website. Hooray to Lisa Firke for her recent massive content update! There's much to discover.

Personal Links
From Greg Leitich Smith
Even More Personally

I highly recommend "The Muppets" and plan to always travel by map from now on.

I also saw "Super 8" (via rental) for the first time and thought it was terrific.

Cynsational Events

"Write Before You Write! Outlining, Planning, Plotting" with Jennifer Ziegler: a class from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10, sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas. Learn more about Jennifer.

Christmas Spectacular with the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 10 at The Book Spot (1205 Round Rock Ave #119) in Round Rock, Texas.

Holiday Tree Lighting and Author Signing at LBJ State Park! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith for the tree lighting ceremony at LBJ State Park from 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Cynthia will be signing Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010). Lucy Johnson will be speaking briefly at the event, and Santa may make an appearance, too. See more information.

See also Cynthia's upcoming events in Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson, Sandy (Utah), Southampton (New York), and Montpelier (Vermont).

About Cynthia

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the Tantalize series for young adults and several acclaimed children's books, most recently including Holler Loudly. Her most recent release is the YA graphic novel, Tantalize: Kieren's Story, and she looks forward to the release of Diabolical in early 2012.

Cynthia makes her home in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Chronal Engine author Greg Leitich Smith, and four writer cats. For more news and conversations in children's-YA literature, read Cynsations.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Giveaway: Home for the Holidays (Mother-Daughter Book Club), Betsy-Tacy Books & More!

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Grand Prize! Enter for a chance to win

Two additional winners will also receive a signed copies of Home for the Holidays!

From the promotional copy for Home for the Holidays:

This holiday season, join the mother-daughter book club as they turn the page to a whole new chapter of adventures!

Unfortunately, nothing goes quite as planned for any of the girls. 

On a Christmas cruise with their families, Megan and Becca fight over the dashing son of the ship's captain. Cassidy and her family fly back to California to visit Cassidy's sister Courtney and stay with old friends in Laguna Beach during Hanukkah. Meanwhile, they’re wrestling with a big question: which state should they call home? 

And back in Concord, a disastrous sledding accident means both Emma and Jess have to completely change their winter vacation plans.

Between squabbles, injuries, and blizzards, everything seems to be going wrong. Will the girls be able to find their holiday spirit in time for a rollicking New Year’s Eve party?

Note: in this story, the club is reading the Betsy-Tacy books!

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with "Mother-Daughter Book Club" in the subject line.


Eligibility: U.S./Canada.

Deadline: midnight CST Dec. 14.

Give the gift of children's-YA literature to the young readers in your life!

Cynsational Notes

Do you like holiday picture books? You can also enter to win one of two copies of Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be by John Harris, illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Peachtree, 2011). Click this link for details!
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