Saturday, January 14, 2012

Giveaway: Tantalize Series Signed Bling & iTunes Gift Cards

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

art by Ming Doyle
Enter to win an author-signed Tantalize: Kieren's Story postcard, Tantalize: Kieren's Story bookmark or Diabolical bookmark! Up to 20 total!

Plus, the occasional Tantalize series button or bat stickers or nifty surprise!

And three lucky winners will receive a $15 iTunes gift card!

Teachers, librarians and book clubs also may enter to win one of five sets of 10 Tantalize: Kieren's Story bookmarks or one of three sets of five Diabolical bookmarks! Please indicate your related affiliation in your entry. I.e., Suzy Q, school librarian, Austin Independent School District.

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 "Tantalize Series Bling" in the subject line. (If you're on LiveJournal, I'm also taking entries via comment at the Cynsations LJ.)

Author-sponsored. Eligibility: international. Deadline: midnight CST Feb. 1.

Cynsational Notes

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith will be available Jan. 24 from Candlewick Press in North America, and Feb. 1 from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand. More releases to come!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Cover Stories: Untraceable by S.R. Johannes from Melissa Walker. Insights from S.R. and Vania, the photographer. Peek from S.R.: "We wanted to use a real life model. I think stock photos are great but to me – we wanted that feeling of being in the woods. Of Grace hiding, and I think Vania got that. There is nothing like an original artwork."

Character Traits: Wounded by Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse. See sidebar for much more.

Rgz Salon: Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif (Flux): reviewed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann from readergirlz. Peek: "The author, of Kurdish and Muslim heritage, offers a portrayal that is both realistic and humorous. The experience of being caught between family rules and pressures on the one hand and the drama of peers on the other is one to which readers of all cultural backgrounds can relate."

Read a Sample Chapter of See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles from Candlewick Press. Release date: May 2012.

Interview with Maria Modugno, Vice President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, from Picture This! A Daily Guide to Picture Book Writing with Rob Sanders, Children's Author. Peek: "When you publish a new book in a picture book series, you are giving the consumer something that is both tried and true and new." Don't miss the continuing interview in part 2, part 3, and part 4. Source: Jill Corcoran.

Interview with Diane Muldrow, Editorial Director of Golden Books/Random House, from Picture This! A Daily Guide to Picture Book Writing with Rob Sanders, Children's Author. Peek: "A picture book is usually a read-aloud, so it has to be written in a way that will have a sort of musicality when read aloud. A picture book needs to have an emotional resonance, too. Or be really funny. It should—artfully—lead us to feel something, teach us something, or show us something in a new way..." Don't miss the continuing interview in part two and part three. Source: Jill Corcoran.

Q & A with Andrea Pinkney of Scholastic, editor of Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory from PaperTigers Blog. Peek: "He is known by many for his work as a brilliant picture book creator, and Caldecott medallist. But in this book, Allen extends his talent to create a stunning work that is part memoir, part graphic novel, part narrative history."

U.K. Publisher Tamarind Books Seeks Quality, Multicultural Manuscripts by Caroline Horn from The Bookseller. Peek: "'Authors themselves don't need to come from a mixed community—although that can work well—but I am essentially looking for strong stories and a good mix of ages,' said Bavishi. 'It has to be a beautiful story—not a focus on the fact that the main character is not middle-class or white.'" Source: ACHUKA.

Cynsational Author Tip: if possible, mention your publisher's name whenever sharing information about your books online. It makes it easier for prospective readers/buyers to find out more and follow up from there.

To Do Well in Life, You Have to Read Well: an audio interview with Walter Dean Myers from National Public Radio.

Daniel Abraham’s Private Letter from Genre to Literature from SF Signal. Peek: "I read through the collections of your most honored short stories, and what do I see? Fantasy, mystery, ghost stories, romance. How often you refresh yourself at my springs. I wonder whether your contempt might hide something deeper. Fear perhaps, that you might be less without me as I am less without you." More on Daniel Abraham. Source: April Henry.

2010 U.S. Population Data Compared with Books By and About Color from Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "...a table we compiled in my month-long course on "Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Books" at Saint Mary's College of California."

Rushing Toward that Dream? Wait. by Yahong Chi from Project Mayhem from The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers. Yahong asks authors Kate Messner, Jonathan Auxier, and Stephen Messer what they miss from their days as unagented, unpublished writers. Peek from Jonathan: "...before I had a book in the world, I had no real sense of my audience. Audience was an abstract idea that couldn't be pinned down and had little say in my storytelling."

Online Gallery Featuring the Art of Ed Young from PaperTigers. Peek: "Ed has illustrated more than 80 books, nearly half of which he also wrote. His versatility and the imaginative mixing of media in his art, as well as his artistic sensitivity towards each new book, have reaped him many awards, including the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China (Philomel, 1989) and two Caldecott Honors for The Emperor and the Kite (Philomel, 1967) and Seven Blind Mice (Philomel, 1992), based on the classic Indian story of the blind men and the elephant."

The Pen Name is Mightier by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "An author may use a pen name if his/her real name is too much like another author or celebrity. It can be hard to stand out as yourself if your real name is a close match like Steven King or Jan Yolen. It's even harder if it's exactly the same as the famous author. If the author is less famous, the introduction of your middle initial or a variant on your first name may be enough to stand out."

Video Interview: Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham from Good Comics for Kids at School Library Journal. Filmed at San Diego International Comic-Con.

SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview with Author/Illustrator John Rocco by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?  John talks about how he approaches illustrating a cover, how his stories involve in terms of art and text, portraying diversity, and portfolio tips. Peek: "...make sure the work all looks like it came from the same person's hand. It is okay to have more than one style, just make sure you separate those styles in different sections of your portfolio."

By Kimberly Pauley (Tu Books, April 1)
Publishing Interview: Stacy Whitman, editor at Tu Books (Lee and Low) by Stephanie S. Kuehn from YA Highway. Peek: "I’ve been looking for an Asian steampunk for about a year now. Get on it, writers! I’d also love to see strong stories for middle grade girls, a voice that’s sometimes hard to get right. I’d love to see unique settings, inspired by real-world cultures but creating new fantasy worlds." See also Beyond Orcs & Elves: Stacy Whitman on Writing Cross-Culturally by Susan J. Morris from Omnivoracious.

Video Interview with U.K. Debut Author Jasmine Richards from Tall Tales and Short Stories. Peek: "Jasmine talks about her debut novel, The Book of Wonders, and what it's like to be on the other side of the publishing desk as an author, instead of in her usual role as a Senior Commissioning (Children's Fiction) Editor at OUP (Oxford University Press)."

Writing Exercise: Give Your Character Something to Hold by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "...look for an object around your house, something you can pick up and hold. It might be a camera, a needle and thread, a baseball glove, a salt shaker, a frying pan, a hair dryer, a favorite book–anything."

National Jewish Book Awards announced by the Jewish Book Council. The winner in the Children's and Young Adult Literature category is Deadly: How Do You Catch an Invisible Killer? by Julie Chibbaro (Atheneum), and the finalists are In the Face of Evil by Tema N. Merback (Friesen Press); To Hope and Back: The Voyage of St. Louis by Kathy Kacer (Second Story); and Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein by Susan Goldman Rubin (Charlesbridge). The Louis Posner Memorial Award for Illustrated Children's Book goes to The Golem's Latkes, adapted by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Aaron Jasinski (Marshall Cavendish), and the finalists are Lipman Pike, America's First Home Run King by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Sleeping Bear); and Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime by Gloria Spielman, illustrated by Manon Gauthier (Kar-Ben). Source: The Whole Megillah.

Our Favorite Articles and Blog Posts from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win one of ten signed copies of Bittersweet by Sarah Ocker (Simon Pulse)(excerpt)! To enter, comment on this post (click the previous 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 "Bittersweet" in the subject line. If you include in your comment a thought on the video at that link, you'll receive two extra entries! Good luck! Publisher-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 23.

Enter to win an ARC of Article 5 by Kristen Simmons (Tor, 2012) and The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (Margaret K. McElderry, 2011) from Tabitha at Writer Musings. Winner will be announced Jan. 28. Note: learn more about Article 5 and The Pledge.

Enter to win an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Harper, 2011) from P.J. Hoover at Roots in Myth. Peek: "...a super-fast read with tons of action and adventure and a healthy dose of dystopia and sci-fi." Note: post includes book trailer.

Jean Reidy is celebrating cabin-fever creativity and the release of her latest picture book Too Princessy!, illustrated by Geneviève Leloup (Bloomsbury, 2012) by hosting a Boredom Buster Blog - chock full of rainy day ideas from parents, teachers, caregivers, babysitters, writers and other folks like you. Send in your favorite ideas and be entered to win one of five prizes, including a $100 bookseller gift card and autographed books. For every idea you submit before January 15th, you'll be entered five times in the drawing for prizes. For every idea submitted after January 15th, you'll be entered once. The drawing will be Feb. 29.

Facebook Contest: Grand Prize: Free School or Library Visit by Jan Brett to Anywhere in the World from PR Web. Enter at Jan's facebook page. Deadline: April 9. Source: ACHUKA.

Reminder: join Kelly Starling Lyons on her blog tour, celebrating the release of Ellen's Broom, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2012), and comment on Kelly's blog, her facebook author page, or any of her blog stops for a chance to win a wedding/anniversary broom courtesy of Stuart’s Creations and a signed poster of the Ellen’s Broom cover. Deadline: the a.m. of Jan. 16. Eligibility: U.S. only. See also Celebrating Us: Children's Books About Weddings by Kelly Starling Lyons from The Brown Bookshelf.

Reminder: Canterwood Crest Initiation Giveaway from Jessica Burkhart. Grand prize includes a 20-minute Skype session or phone call with the author. Deadline: 11:59 EST Jan. 20. Eligibility: U.S. only.

This Week's Cynsations Posts:
Contributors include Cynthia Leitich Smith.

    Cynsational Screening Room

    The Joy of Books by Type Book Store (883 Queen Street West) in Toronto. Source: Jon Gibbs.

    Behind the Scenes with Illustrator Matt Tavares from Tavares Books. Note: "A short video about the making of Lady Liberty: A Biography, a picture book written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares, published by Candlewick Press (2008)."

    Author Holly Cupala on the "Dear Bully" Anthology and her latest Young Adult Novel, Don't Breathe A Word (HarperCollins) from Lee Wind at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

    More Personally

    What an honor to see my official author website, including Children's & YA Lit Resources and Goodies for Writers at, recognized among Great Websites for Kids by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association!

    The ALA cheers my site not only for its information of my own work but also my pages on multiculturalism and speculative fiction. See listing.

    Thanks to my web designer, Lisa Firke, for her ongoing contributions to the success of the site!

    After an hour, I found Blizzard in the laundry basket.
    What else? My very cute husband (and sometimes co-author) Greg Leitich Smith and I have exchanged our most recent manuscripts. Mine is due to my Candlewick editor at the end of the month, and his is a first draft.

    I had to drop out of critique groups to teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts. (I couldn't read regularly for eight, plus, other novelists), so Greg is my only early reader these days.

    We'll sit down on Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon to discuss, and I'm excited to both check out his latest and soak up his feedback.

    Greg's next novel, Chronal Engine (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), will be out in March.

    Cynthia Leitich Smith: Back Again with Another Bestseller by from Kids' Ebook Bestsellers. Interview focuses on e-publishing, marketing, audience, and tech v. print accessibility issues for young readers. Note: "Haunted Love" is now available from Candlewick Press for free download via major online retailers. The story features new characters but is set in the Tantalize series universe. Thanks to everyone who helped make "Haunted Love" a Books on Board bestseller!

    Author copies of Diabolical are in the house!

    More Fantastic Books for Older Readers by Cynthia K. Ritter from The Horn Book. The highlighted four titles include Diabolical (Candlewick/Walker, 2012). Peek: "The Harry Potter–worthy final battle between good and evil — with a welcome dose of devilish humor added in — make this installment an expertly woven narrative, bringing new readers up to speed while satisfying invested fans with a happily-ever-after ending."

    P.J. Hoover at Roots in Myth says of Diabolical (Candlewick/Walker, 2012):  "...what really dawned on me in Diabolical is how absolutely awesome her two main guy characters really are. Steam comes off the pages in this one." Note: Diabolical will be released Jan. 24.

    My first author copy of Blessed in paperback!
    Samantha Boyette says of Blessed (Candlewick/Walker, 2011): "Quincie has a spine and some personality... I mean sure, she still does crazy things to be with this guy, but she also runs a restaurant and has other friends too. She is a well-rounded character who happens to be in love." Note: Blessed will be available in paperback on Valentine's Day.

    In support of No Name-Calling Week, look for Dear Bully, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones (HarperCollins, 2011) in the adult section (with the parenting books) this month at your local Barnes & Noble. Note: the anthology includes my essay, "Isolation."

    Looking for signed copies of the Tantalize series books (Candlewick/Walker, 2007-) or Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010)? Try my local independent bookstore, BookPeople in Austin, Texas. Note: the BookPeople children's-YA department also has signed copies of Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith (Little, Brown).

    Personal Links:
    From Greg Leitich Smith:

    Cynsational Events

    Brian Yansky will be presenting "Getting Organized" at 10 a.m. Jan. 14 on the second floor at BookPeople in conjunction with Austin SCBWI. "Brian will be sharing his secrets of success regarding how to keep all of the loose ends of crafting a manuscript in control while attempting to balance a busy everyday life." Note: the chapter will offer an open critique group at 11 a.m., and then members Tim Crow, Lynne Hoenig, and Bonnie Crow will report on the Story Masters Workshop, featuring Chris Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass at 1 p.m.

    Vicious Valentine: a YA fantasy celebration, featuring authors Jordan Dane, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, Mari Mancusi, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and L.A. Weatherly---moderated by Sean Petrie--will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at BookPeople in Austin. Whether you love love, hate it or fear it, be there for spooky cool refreshments and scary bookish fun!

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

    Mark your calendars for Alex Flinn's Upcoming Tour.  She'll be appearing at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville on Feb. 14, at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston Feb. 15, and at Barnes & Noble in Round Rock (Texas) Feb. 16.

    Blogger Interview: Steven R. McEvoy of Book Reviews and More

    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations

    Learn more about Steven R. McEvoy.

    Are you a bookstore or library reader or both?

    Both, but to be honest about 80% of what I read is ARCs or review copies. But I love browsing both bookstores and libraries.

    Do you keep a record of your reading? If so, how?

    Yes. I am on my 34th volume of reading journals since August of '94 when I started keeping track of reading and have an itemized list dating to October 1995. I also keep a list of favorite books each year and favorite authors each year.

    Now I only count books I read for myself. I do not list books I read to my children or other children.

    How do books for children and teens fit into the mix?

    I tend to go through phases in my reading, currently I would say about 75% of what I read is YA or children’s literature. I have had a great fondness for children’s lit since doing a university course in it about 10 years ago.

    Because of my dyslexia and not learning to read until later in life, I never read children’s books while a child. And now I have a deep appreciation and love for them.

    How do you spread the word about great reads?

    If it makes my top ten of the year, I tend to buy a bunch of copies and give it away for Christmas and birthdays. I now try and post a review of every book I read on my blog, Book Reviews and More. Once posted on my blog I cross-post to,, and After that, I tweet about it, post to Google+ and Facebook.

    How do you store your books? Do you keep all of them? Donate?

    With reading over 100 books a year I now keep very few, and if I buy an electronic copy, I usually do not keep the physical book anymore at all.

    Most of my ARCs and review copies end up with Family and Children's Services. My dad and stepmom are foster parents, and I pass along a lot that my stepmom reads with the kids. I also donate them to the FACS Library or Foster Parent Association garage sale.

    I tend to only keep about one out of every hundred books I read, and usually only if I plan on rereading the book again and again.

    Was there a book that changed your life?

    The fiction book that had the biggest impact on my life was probably Jacob the Baker by Noah benShea. I have read the first book 13 times and the trilogy 10 times. They are books I reread every year, and each time they challenge me to be a better person. The books in the series are: Jacob the Baker, Jacob's Journey and Jacob's Ladder.

    What were you like as a young reader?

    To be honest, I could not read and did everything I could to avoid it.

    In school, I rented the movies and did my reports based on the movies until after grade 7. I felt stupid because others in school could read and I could not. I hated having to go out to special instruction for English class time.

    What challenges did you face?

    I came out of grade 7 reading at a grade 3 level. And yet I passed the school year and was soon to be in high school. My parents sent me to a private summer school, and in two months, I went from reading about 30 words per minute to over 400 with comprehension, and from reading well below my grade level to reading at a university level. Once I learned how to read and discovered the joy in reading, it was like suddenly there were worlds I never knew existed and I became very addicted to it.

    What advice do you have for young readers with dyslexia?

    Be persistent. Get the help you need. There are worlds in books, and friends awaiting you. If one technique does not work for you, keep trying until you find the one that does.

    What advice do you have for teachers and parents?

    Lead by example. Be a reader. Also do not give up on anyone. I had teacher after teacher just pass me on in English.

    Anyone can become a reader if they are really taught to read and the wonder of literature.

    What do you do when you're not reading?

    Write reviews, workout, hang out with my wife and kids. Plan my next books to read. I usually have different books on the go on my Kobo, iPad, iPhone and physical books.

    Currently, I have about 30 books in process.

    What does reading mean to you now?

    Books show us other ways of being; they can help us learn to be better at being. To help us become what we were meant to be.

    I love this quote from Saint Erasmus: "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left over, I buy food and clothes!" That is the passion I have for books.

    What is their special appeal?

    Books can take us to places we have never been. They can take us to places we never dreamed of. They are friends we can visit again and again. They can be an escape or distraction or they can focus us to a greater purpose.

    Why is word-spreading so important to you?

    When I encounter something that I believe is wonderful or amazing, I do all I can to promote it.

    Back when I was a bookseller, I hand-sold books by Paolo Coelho, Chuck Palahniuk, Christopher Moore, Robin Sharma and Dan Millman every day. At the time they were among my favorite authors, and I could sell almost anyone on trying one of their books.

    I think, as readers, we have a responsibility to the authors and the characters in the stories that touch us to share them with others.

    If, as I see it, books and characters can be friends.... Well, who doesn’t like their friends to meet each other?

    Which were your favorite authors or books in your youth?

    I tend to read an author's entire body of work, not just books on a title by title basis. I find an author I like and read everything he or she wrote. When I was younger, it was Harry Harrison, Piers Anthony (all the non- Xanth books), Robert A. Heinlien, Steven Brust. Back then, I read mostly science fiction.

    Which are your favorite authors or books now?

    For the last few years I have been mostly on a young adult kick. I find the writing so much better, the stories tighter and the characters amazing.

    My current favorite authors would be: Cecil Castellucci, Noah benShea, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Libba Bray, Alexander Gordon Smith, Kathryn Lasky, Arthur Slade, Kenneth Oppel, Holly Black, Pat Schmatz and more.

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    New Voice: Robin Bridges on The Gathering Storm

    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations

    Robin Bridges is the first-time author of The Gathering Storm (Book One of The Katerina Trilogy)(Delacorte, 2012). From the promotional copy:

    St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. 

    As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. 

    Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.

    An evil presence is growing within Europe's royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina's strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar's standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina's help to safeguard Russia, even if he's repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.

    The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

    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?

    I started hoarding books on Russia after reading one about the history of the Moscow Art Theater over ten years ago. The culture that was flourishing in Russia at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century was fascinating to me--this was the time when artists like Tchaikovsky, Faberge, Tolstoy, and Repin were all creating their masterpieces.

    I always knew I wanted to write a story about that time and place. I began collecting books, mostly used, about Russian history, from biographies of the Romanovs to old Russian cookbooks to museum catalogs of Faberge treasures. The prize of my library is a copy of Masha by Mara Kay (Lothrop, Lee, and Shepherd, 1968). It’s about a young girl growing up at the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens in the reign of Alexander the First. I fell in love with this school and decided it would be the perfect setting for my story.

    The more I read about nineteenth century Russian history, I discovered the superstitions and rumors swirling around the Imperial court. My what if? moment came when I wondered what if these peasant rumors were true--what if the Russian court really did consist of witches and sorcerers? And what if one of the noble maidens at Smolny was the only one who could defend the tsar from these monsters?

    My research began to include Eastern European folklore and fairy tales, many of which I’d heard as a child. My great-grandparents were of German descent but their families had lived in Russia for generations. My great-grandfather owned a bakery outside of Kiev in 1900 and my great-grandmother learned to speak several languages, including Russian, German, Polish and Yiddish, in order to serve the diverse customers that came into the shop. Stories told to me about the old bakery and its old samovar were woven in with stories about firebirds and snowmaidens as well as Grimm fairy tales.

    As I researched the Romanov family tree, I decided not to use an actual person for my main character. Katerina Alexandrovna of Oldenburg did not really exist, but Evgenia Maximilianova and Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg did. Prince Alexander really did open up the Institute for Experimental Medicine and really did give much of his wealth to hospitals and other charities.

    I’d like to think that a daughter of his would have shared his interest in medicine. Women were not allowed to attend medical school in Russia in the late nineteenth century, but a generation later, the Empress and her daughters became nurses. They took care of wounded soldiers during the Russo-Japanese War under the supervision of a princess who’d attended medical school in Switzerland, Princess Vera Gedroits.

    As a nurse myself, researching the early women doctors of Russia was inspiring.

    By Sarah Miller
    Katerina’s story became a late nineteenth century fairytale, filled with spiritism and superstition of the era, as well as the hope for a new century filled with progress. I trolled the Alexander Palace Time Machine’s website for photographs and biographies of Russian nobility. I emailed back and forth with the director of the Museum of Medical History at the University of Zurich. I researched the mystical societies and secret orders of the time.

    Not being able to read German and Russian texts has been frustrating, but I’ve had plenty of English resources.

    Sarah Miller, a fellow Blue Boarder and the author of The Lost Crown, (Athenum, 2011), was kind enough to share tons of old Romanov photographs with me. Before The Katerina Trilogy is complete, I hope to travel to Russia and see the palaces and museums for myself.

    As soon as I learn to speak Russian.

    As someone with a full-time day job, 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?

    Visit Robin Bridges.
    When I was an English major, my writing consisted of literary short stories, based on growing up in the South. I thought I had to be Eudora Welty.

    I put my writing aside when I went back to school to become a nurse. I did not write a single word for two years.

    By then, I’d fallen in love with the books my children loved, especially Harry Potter and the Princess Diaries. And I remembered why I’d wanted to be a writer when I was little.

    It wasn’t because I wanted to be Harper Lee; it was because I wanted to be Laura Ingalls.

    Being a pediatric nurse is a difficult but incredibly rewarding career. But it’s also perfect for me as a writer. I work three twelve hour shifts on the weekend, and then have the rest of the week at home to write. This works best during the school year, when I have an empty house to myself during the weekdays. Just me and the dogs.

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations   

    Booklist Senior Editor Ilene Cooper speaks to author John Green about his new novel The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012), the difficulties of honestly depicting cancer survivors, and the challenges of signing every single copy of the 150,000 first printing.

    Check out the book trailer for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Source: YABC.

    Cynsational Notes

    See also John's National Tour Schedule. Here in Texas, he'll be in Houston, in conjunction with Blue Willow Bookshop, Jan. 20 and in Austin, in conjunction with BookPeople, Jan. 21. See link for details on these off-site events and others across the U.S. and B.C. 

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Guest Post: Elizabeth O. Dulemba on Promoting a Book App

    By Elizabeth O. Dulemba
    for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

    Apps are the hot new thing.

    And while they’re not exactly the same as books, they have one big thing in common... there are so many of them, it’s hard to find any particular one.

    A few years ago when I came out with my app Lula's Brew, it was early in the game and she was pretty easy to find. Sadly, that is no longer the case. And the iTunes search engine really doesn’t help.

    So, how can you get your app found? Just as with books, you have to look at alternative paths than just posting it in iTunes.

    Here at Cynsations, I’ve talked about “Marketing - the Snowball Effect” and building a platform from day one, so that when you have a product to sell, you have an already established audience eager to support you. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to advertise.

    Of course, in this age, word-of-mouth means blogs, twitter, email, facebook, YouTube, etc. And those are your next best bet. Shout about your app from the hilltops! But to avoid being obnoxious, try to give back while you do it. Offer a giveaway, free lesson plans, puzzles, support materials - anything that might tie in with your app that you can give away for free.

    Make sure you have a link to buy your app on your website or blog. (Sounds obvious but...)

    Send your app to the myriad of new app reviewers, like the biggie, Moms with Apps. Offer a few free download codes in exchange. It’s how Lula's Brew was downloaded over 7,000 times in two days! (Over 10,000 total.)

    Guest post on other blogs (like this!). Cynthia was kind enough to let me promote by offering her readers some free content about marketing! But she’s not the only one.

    Lots of bloggers are looking for content to share on their blogs. Ask a few if you can be a guest blogger or if they mind hosting you on a Blog APP Tour (rather than a Blog Book Tour).

    Finally, accost everybody you see with a smart phone and make them download your app. Okay, maybe not. But do be proactive. Because if you don’t sell your app, nobody will, and it will quickly disappear into the deep app sea.

    About Lula's Brew

    Lula's Aunties want her to be a witch like them. But Lula prefers to study cookbooks rather than spellbooks (and hates to fly on a broom). Lula wants to be a famous chef. In desperation, the Aunties insist she try to make one last potion. Lula secretly adds her cooking flair and in true witchy fashion creates a brew that bewitches the entire town, and her Aunties too! Download the iPad app. Also now available as a .pdf, on the Nook color, and Kindle.

    See also Elizabeth O. Dulemba on “Marketing - the Snowball Effect” from Cynsations.

    So Silver Bright Animated Trailer Contest

    So Silver Bright Animated Trailer Contest from Lisa Mantchev. Enter to win T-shirts, tote bags and more. Deadline: midnight PST Jan. 31. More about So Silver Bright (Square Fish, 2012).

    See details to enter here!

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Author Lena Coakley Interviews Author Alan Cumyn on Tilt

    By Lena Coakley
    for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations 

    Alan Cumyn is the author of many acclaimed novels for both children and adults.

    Books in his Owen Skye series have won the Mr. Christies and Hackmatack awards and were nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, and the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award. His novel The Famished Lover was long-listed for the Giller prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

    He lives in Ottawa and teaches in the M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

    LC: You’ve written for adults and for children, but Tilt (Groundwood, 2011) is your first foray into young-adult writing. Did you approach this book differently from your others?

    AC: Every book for me starts with a character in a situation. What was different with Tilt was the way those elements came to me. Three years ago I had just arrived at Vermont College of Fine Arts as new staff, and I listened to a lecture by the brilliant Louise Hawes on “the line of desire” – what your character wants and why s/he can’t get it. Louise had us all write a letter to ourselves at a much younger age, and what sprang to mind for me was an image of myself at sixteen.

    No letter emerged; instead I had to play an imaginary game of one-on-one basketball with my much younger self before we could even begin to have a conversation. Once that happened, the character was with me, and the situation soon followed: Stan is stymied in his basketball aspirations, trying not to think about his tangled home life, and hopelessly in love with someone who might not even be available. In a nutshell: adolescence!

    LC: Your portrait of sixteen-year-old Stan Dart is so well observed I couldn’t help wondering if Tilt was semi-autobiographical. Is there any Stan Dart in you?

    AC: Like Stan, at sixteen I was obsessed with basketball – it was a near-religion for me – and I also wrote poetry and dreamed about martial arts. And, of course, like most adolescent males, I was trapped between raging hormones and no socially acceptable outlet for sexual urges.

    So a lot of the prep work for Tilt involved what I think of as exploring emotional memory – being true to the feelings of the time rather than, necessarily, the actual events.

    LC: Tilt deals very frankly (and often hilariously!) with sex. You cover erections, first kisses, first sexual encounters—even the title refers to the sexual orientation of one of the characters, Janine, who may or may not be a “gwog” (goes with other girls). 

    Did you ever feel that you needed to censor yourself because you were writing for a younger audience?

    AC: First and foremost I wanted to be true to the feelings and situations Stan has to deal with; I wanted to write the kind of emotionally honest book that I wished I could have easily gotten my hands on when I was younger.

    First sexual urges are amongst the strongest emotions many people experience; the agonies are terrible and the ecstasies are out of this world. Young people today are also exposed to – through films, TV, the Internet – more explicit content than most of us want to even think about.

    So the challenge for me was to not pull my punches and yet stay emotionally true to the experiences Stan goes through. My own daughters, who were teenagers at the time, read the manuscript before I sent it off to my agent. If I was working with an internal censor, it was the parent in me trying not to alarm my own kids. But they were cool with it…. 

    LC: I read that you studied writing under the great Canadian novelist and short story writer Alistair MacLeod and I know that you are also on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. I’m wondering how your experiences as both as student and a teacher have advanced your craft.

    AC: A good writer keeps learning, changing, pushing boundaries and trying new things. I had an extraordinary education in writing, especially given the opportunity to study with a brilliant writer and teacher in Alistair MacLeod, but I graduated with an M.A. in creative writing when I was only 24 – I had a lot more living and craft work to do before my stories would begin to have an impact on others.

    It’s certainly also a privilege and a gift to teach; good teachers soon realize that they are learning as much, or even more, than their students.

    If you’re going to explain something valuable to others you have to first figure it out for yourself. Malcolm Gladwell and others talk about the 10,000 hours of honest, hard, diligent prep work it takes to become good at anything worthwhile and difficult. Well, time studying and time teaching writing have been an essential part of my on-going education as a writer.

    It’s also tremendously stimulating to be working with colleagues and students who are so dedicated and talented. Tilt is in many ways a product of my VCFA experience – I got the main idea while at a residency there, have read from early drafts to VCFA audiences, and launched the book there this summer when the first copies emerged. 

    LC: What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence Tilt and your other works?

    AC: I was a “reluctant reader” when young. I vividly remember the pain and effort (and disappointment!) involved in decoding all those symbols and sounding out individual words. Reading only started to make sense to me when my parents began buying me sports books.

    Then I caught fire when I realized that reading could be a ticket to the adult world. So I leapt from "The Babe Ruth Story" to The Godfather, and somewhere along the way stumbled into Alice Munro and others and the realization that a good novel could take you silently, without need for a lot of conversation, into fascinating other bodies, other lives.

    I read because I was hungry to understand what I was in for, what might be coming my way in the years ahead, and I write now hoping to serve the same hunger in others.

    If Tilt works for a young reader, for any reader, I’m hoping it’s because the characters and situations resonate in an honest way with the delights and pitfalls life serves up. 

    LC: Readers love to hear about an author’s process—what your writing day is like, how long a book takes, what the editing process is like, etc. Can you tell us a little about that?

    AC: In recent years I have become unusually busy, not just with teaching duties but other adventures – I was Chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada for a year, which monopolized a lot of my attention.

    So for Tilt I had to be terrifically organized and focused: writing in the mornings, staying away from email until noon (when possible), working through the weekend if family members were away.

    A book takes me at least two years, and often the re-writing involves a boiling off of everything that isn’t essential to the text. Shelley Tanaka was extremely helpful as editor for Tilt in helping me sort out some plot and character tangles – I do tend to complicate things unnecessarily sometimes.

    But writing for me is a joy, it’s the best part about being an author – the hours spent quietly figuring out, through language, who these people are and what they do to themselves and each other. 

    LC: What are you working on now? Will you go back to writing for adults or has writing for children and young adults won you over?

    AC: I like to change gears, so I am working on an adult novel now. I must say I love the flexibility, the world of possibilities, of writing for younger audiences, but I am also drawn to the elemental nature of adult concerns. Life seems to get simpler, and harder, as we go along, though we surround ourselves with complications. How’s that for a recipe for interesting stories?

    Cynsational Notes

    Honors for Tilt include:

    In a starred review, the Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books says of Tilt: "Cumyn writes with an artless, resilient quirkiness, a wry plainspoken inventiveness that instantly animates scenes and characters."

    In the video below, Alan reads from his children's book, Deer/Dear Sylvia (Groundwood, 2008). Featuring Kimba Gifford as Owen Skye. Directed by Jasmine Murray-Bergquist.

    Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

    She became interested in young adult literature when she moved to Toronto, Canada, and began working for CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, where she eventually became the Administrative Director. She is now a full-time writer living in Toronto.

    Witchlanders, her debut novel, was called “a stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews. It is a Junior Library Guild selection and an ABC new voices selection.

    See also New Voice: Lena Coakley on Witchlanders and Author Lena Coakley Interviews Editor Hadley Dyer of HarperCollins Canada, both from Cynsations.

    Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA 2012 Winter Residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts

    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations   

    Best wishes to the faculty, administrators, students and staff of the M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts as you gather over the next several days for the winter 2012 residency in Montpelier.

    Hooray for visiting speakers Marla Frazee and Libba Bray!

    Congratulations to new visiting faculty members April Lurie and Matt de la Peña!

    Welcome to the first semester students! Good luck to the graduating class on your readings and lectures! Stay warm, have fun, learn, grow, share, and dance like Snoopy!

    My thoughts are with you all!

    Cynsational Notes

    Due to my publication schedule, I'm on extended leave from the faculty.

    Check out this 2008 video celebrating Vermont College of Fine Arts:

    Monday, January 09, 2012

    Giveaway: Ten Signed Copies of Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations  

    Enter to win one of ten signed copies of Bittersweet by Sarah Ocker (Simon Pulse)(excerpt)!

    From the promotional copy:

    From the author of Twenty Boy Summer, a teen pushes the limits to follow her dreams—and learns there’s a fine line between bitter and sweet...

    Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

    So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. 

    Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

    It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last....

    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 "Bittersweet" in the subject line. If you include in your comment a thought on the video below, you'll receive two extra entries! Good luck!

    Publisher-sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 23.

    Cynsational Notes

    Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
    Sarah Ocker is the bestselling author of Fixing Delilah (Little, Brown, 2011) and the critically acclaimed Twenty Boy Summer (Little, Brown, 2010), a YALSA Teens' Top Ten nominee and IndieNext List pick.

    She is a championship cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm.

    When she’s not writing or reading at home in Colorado, Sarah enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.

    Visit her website at and find her on Twitter and Facebook.

    Read chapter one of Bittersweet.

    Girl Meets Boy, Edited by Kelly Milner Halls is Now Available

    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations  

    Congratulations to anthologist Kelly Milner Halls on the release of Girl Meets Boy (Chronicle, 2012). From the promotional copy:

    What do guys and girls really think? 

    Twelve of the most dynamic and engaging YA authors writing today team up for this one-of-a-kind collection of “he said/she said” stories—he tells it from the guy’s point of view, she tells it from the girl’s. These are stories of love and heartbreak. 

    There’s the good-looking jock who falls for a dangerous girl, and the flip side, the toxic girl who never learned to be loved; the basketball star and the artistic (and shorter) boy she never knew she wanted; the gay boy looking for love online and the girl who could help make it happen. 

    Each story in this unforgettable collection teaches us that relationships are complicated—because there are two sides to every story.

    The paired contributing authors are: Cynthia Leitich Smith and Joseph Bruchac, Ellen Wittlinger and James Howe, Terry Trueman and Rita Williams-Garcia, Sara Ryan and Randy Powell, Terry Davis and Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Kelly Milner Halls and Chris Crutcher.

    Cynsational Notes

    Kelly Milner Halls is the author of Albino Animals (Darby Creek, 2004) and Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures That May Or May Not Exist, co-authored by Rick Spears and Roxyanne Young (Darby Creek, 2006), both YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her more recent releases include In Search of Sasquatch (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) and Alien Investigation: Searching for the Truth About UFOs and Aliens (Milbrook/Lerner, Jan. 15, 2012). She lives in Spokane, Washington.

    Don't miss the Girl Meets Boy discussion guide from Chronicle Books.

    Preview Girl Meets Boy below; excerpt features "Love or Something Like It" by Chris Crutcher and "Some Things Never Change" by Kelly Milner Halls:
    Girl Meets Boy

    Sunday, January 08, 2012

    Vote in the Preliminary Round of the YA Book Genre Battle

    Paperback edition coming Feb. 14.
    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations 

    Vote for the paranormal novel Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker Books) and your other favorites of 2011 in the preliminary round of the YA Book Genre Battle, hosted by Most Important Letter!

    You can vote for as many as you like and nominate additional books.

    Categories include:
    • contemporary
    • paranormal
    • dystopian/post-apocalyptic
    • science fiction
    • mythology
    • fantasy 
    • mystery

    Vote, volunteer, and/or nominate! Scroll to the end of the post to vote (above that, you can volunteer to help out, if you'd like to do so).

    Deadline: Jan. 11.

    Cynsational Notes

    Cynsations reporter Lena Coakley's Witchlanders (Atheneum, 2011) also is a nominee in the paranormal category.

    Thanks to everyone who helped make the electronic release of the short story, "Haunted Love," by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2011) a Books on Board bestseller!

    Cynthia Leitich Smith: Back Again with Another Bestseller by from Kids' Ebook Bestsellers. Interview focuses on e-publishing, marketing, audience, and tech v. print accessibility issues for young readers.

    "Haunted Love" is now available from Candlewick Press for free download via major online retailers. The story features new characters but is set in the Tantalize series universe.

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