Friday, January 27, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature have been announced.

In the Picture Book category, the winner was The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China by Ed Young (Little, Brown), and the honor book was Hot Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min (Lee & Low).

In the Children's Literature category, the winner was The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (Scholastic), and the honor book was Vanished by Sheela Chari (Hyperion).

In the Young Adult category, the winner was Orchards by Holly Thompson (Delacorte), and the honor book was Level Up by Gene Luen Yang (First Second).

For author insights, see New Voice: Sheela Chari on Vanished and Holly Thompson on the Perfect Setting and Orchards. 

More News & Giveaways

Poetry: A Messy Business from Sharon Darrow. Peek: "What would happen if the wind blew in and swooped up all our carefully ordered pages, tossed them to the ceiling, some even blowing away through the open window, and rearranged those left into a joyful chaos? How would we cope? What treasures might we find?"

The Promise of the Novel by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "If something reads contemporary realistic for enough pages to make me think that it’s a contemporary realistic novel, don’t toss dragons at me on page 25. My expectations have gelled. I am settling into your tale. I don’t want to suddenly discover that I’ll be reading high fantasy."

Do You Need Social Media Interaction? by Angela Ackerman from The Bookshelf Muse. Peek: "Running yourself ragged is not the solution. Quitting a platform you worked so hard to build is not the solution. Change is." See also The Fine Art of Zipping It, or XYZ PDQ by Jennifer Laughran from Jennifer Represents.

Twenty Years Strong from The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story. Peek: "On Saturday, Feb. 4, Philadelphia’s African American Children’s Book Fair turns 20. It’s a milestone that means a lot to founder Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati."

Placing Too Much Importance on Passion from Jane Friedman. Peek: "As long as we do work that feels satisfying—that complements our personal values and strengths—we can all do just fine, especially if we have relationships that are also fulfilling and satisfying."

Questions about Power in Stories and Storytelling by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Two lists of questions to consider before/as you write.

Inspiration and Writing Anyway from Kate Messner. Peek: "Have you ever noticed that we don’t ask this question of people with too many other jobs?  I didn’t ask my mail carrier how she got inspired to deliver the mail today, nor do I ask my husband how he gets inspired to figure out the weather forecast." See also Kate on The Fine Art of Faking It.

Rotters” by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne (Listening Library) is the 2012 Odyssey Award winner. See Daniel Kraus on Why Do You Write Such Dark YA Fiction? from Cynsations. Peek: "It has already been called by one taste-maker as the most 'adult' book ever published as YA, and is certainly in the running for the darkest."

2012 Amelia Bloomer Celebrates Feminist Perspective in Books for Young Readers from the American Library Association. See the complete annotated list. See Amelia Bloomer top 10 author Julie Chibbaro on Navigating The Past Through Real Stories.

Ghetto Cowboy,” by G. Neri and narrated by J.D. Jackson (Brilliance Audio) is a 2012 Odyssey honor book.  See G. Neri On The Trail to Ghetto Cowboy from Cynsations. Peek: "By getting boys interested in raising a horse rather than killing another human being, these cowboys gave the youth something positive: father figures, focus, and the ability to stand tall."

Hungry for More About the Hunger Games? A Q&A with Amandla Stenberg (aka Rue) by Karen Springen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I had a little wreath of flowers in my pocket that I thought Rue might have. That was in my pocket as good luck, and also a special rock."

When to Quit Querying and Self-Publish by Samantha Clark from Motivation for Writers. Peek: "Rejections to query letters could mean a number of things: the query isn’t strong enough, the writing isn’t good enough, the story isn’t interesting enough, the characters aren’t developed enough. Let’s face it, plenty of us have sent out queries for a book we thought was ready only to look at it later and think it wasn’t."

Karen Schreck and Katherine Grace Bond interview Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "The 'we publish authors not books' often comes down to career planning. When we sign an author, we want to work with her over a number of different books. We want to launch her (or relaunch her) and build her audience."

Writing Easy Readers - Or How to Get Second Graders to Love You by Dotti Enderle from Trust Me...I'm a Writer. A few tips from the author of a dozen early reader chapter books.

2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Note: special congrats to fellow Austinite Chris Barton on the inclusion of Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities, illustrated by Paul Hoppe (Dial, 2011)! See Chris on Unbridled Silliness and Carefully Researched Truth Telling.

Catching Your World on Paper by Danielle Leafty from QueryTracker.net. Peek: "World building, in it's most basic form, is the process by which an author takes the story as it is in his or her mind and carefully reconstructs it on the page."

Discussion and Activity Guides: an interview with Debbie Gonzales from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "...any way we can make our books appealing to gatekeepers – teachers, booksellers, librarians, parents – the better. Guides demonstrate the academic soundness of your book to the educator. They show gatekeepers that you’ve taken their needs to heart and want to help make their lives a little easier."

A Book Rejected 23 Times? What Impact Could It Have? Check out this video featuring Mitali Perkins from the Highlights Foundation. Learn about Mitali's upcoming workshop, Creating an Authentic Cultural Voice, with Donna Jo Napoli and special guests Kathryn Eskine and Alvina Ling, which will take place April 26 to April 29. Peek: "Through impeccable research, imagination, empathy, and experience, a true cultural voice can be achieved." See also upcoming Highlights Workshops on Nature Writing and Science Writing.

List of Selected Illustrators for the Illustrators Exhibition 2012 at Bologna Children's Book Fair. See also Selected Images.

Genre Display Signing for Libraries by Naomi Bates from YA Books and More. Don't miss part two.

It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) by Jonathan Maberry from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "...four separate aspects to the genre. They are pre-Apocalyptic, Apocalyptic, Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian. Over the last six years I’ve written variations of all four. And I’m a happy guy. I don’t shovel down anti-depressants and writing this stuff isn’t a cry for help."

Editorial Palavering: Martha Mihalick, Editor at Greenwillow/HarperColllins by Cheryl Klein from Brooklyn Arden. Peek: "...I'm very attracted to stories that involve significant--often heartwrenching--choices for the characters. And ones with strong friendship or sibling themes." Check out Cheryl's book, Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising & Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults.

When Dad Came Back by Gary Soto (University Press of New England) at facebook. Note: Gary's first e-only book for young adults. See Jo Ellen Misakian Interviews Author Gary Soto on His New Books, Writing and the Gary Soto Museum.

12 x 12 in 2012: Picture Book Writing Challenge from Julie Hedlund: Write Up My Life.  Peek: "Twelve complete picture book drafts. Twelve months.  2012.  Are you with me?" Sign-up deadline: Jan. 29.

Getting the Glory: A Note about Awards by Kathi Appelt from Write at Your Own Risk. Peek: "What I I think is that we’re all in search of glory. But let me just say that glory comes in many sizes.  Some days it ends with a small 'be,' and that’s enough.  When I say 'glory be' out loud it reminds me of the joy and wonder that I experience at the end of a well-formed sentence—both my own and others." See also Musings About Awards by Teri Lesesne from professornana.

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

Cynsational Giveaways


Enter to win a Diabolical giveaway! The grand prize includes:


Note: Tantalize series logos designed by Gene Brenek; see the whole selection at Sanguini's at CafePress.

Runner-Up Prizes
  • one of two signed hardcover copies of Tantalize
  • one of two signed hardcover copies of Eternal
  • one of two signed hardcover copies of Blessed
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 you can email Cynthia directly with "Diabolical giveaway" in the subject line.  Everyone will be entered for every prize unless otherwise specified. If you have, say, an earlier book in the series and don't want another copy, please just say so! (In the alternative, you could plan to gift one to a friend or a local school/public library.) Author-sponsored. Eligibility: international. Deadline: Feb. 8.

Looking for another chance to win? Check out this Diabolical Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith & Giveaway by Jen Bigheart from I Read Banned Books.


Grand Prize! Enter for a chance to win:
A runner-up will receive signed copy of Love? Maybe. And sweet treats.

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 "Love? Maybe." in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Deadline: midnight CST Jan. 31.

Plus three $15 iTunes Gift Cards!
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 (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 "Tantalize Series Bling" in the subject line. Author-sponsored. Eligibility: international. Deadline: midnight CST Feb. 1.

More Giveaways

Last call! 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.

Last call! Interview with Caroline Starr Rose and May B. Giveaway by Literary Rambles. Peek: "...I learned from that disastrous manuscript that regardless of the history, the story had to belong to the character; I couldn’t beat historical facts into my readers’ heads. I went into May B. trusting that if I kept my protagonist’s perspective and understanding of her world, enough history would organically seep in." Deadline: midnight, Jan. 28.

Reminder: 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. The drawing will be Feb. 29.

This Week's Cynsations Posts

Austin Scene

Photo courtesy of Jeanette Larson.

Highlights of the week included Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher event Monday night at BookPeople in Austin. They gave a terrific joint presentation on their new release, The Future of Us (Razorbill, 2011), and are highly recommended as speakers.

More Personally

Look for Diabolical at The Book Spot in Round Rock, Texas.
Diabolical is now available from Candlewick Press! Check out the giveaway (above) as well as buzz and upcoming events (below). Any efforts to help spread the word will be hugely appreciated.

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the 2012 ALA Youth Media Awards. I was especially excited to see Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall (HarperCollins, 2011) on the 2012 Rainbow List. The book includes my essay, "Isolation." Note: awards coverage is ongoing and will continue next week.

Are you a fan of school libraries? Are you based in the U.S.? Please consider signing this White House petition to help ensure every child in America has access to an effective school library program. Please also share this link with fellow enthusiasts. Thank you!

Welcome Cynthia Leitich Smith and Diabolical from Joy Preble at Joy's Novel Idea. Note: an in-depth interview about creating a diversity of work, writing as a career, balance (or lack thereof), a typical day, a double-author marriage, and more! Peek: "Be especially sure to read outside of your comfort zone. Creating art is all about thriving, innovating amidst uncertainly and chaos; reading books that challenge you is a smart way to steel yourself."

Diabolical Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith & Giveaway by Jen Bigheart from I Read Banned Books. Note: reflections on the Tantalize series, settings, and my favorite "devils." Peek: "...more imagination went into developing the Penultimate, which is located outside the Pearly Gates. It basically functions as a receiving/reunion area and lobby lounge with temporary housing and business offices of the angels."

Nominations for The Children's Book Council "2012 Teen Choice Book of the Year" are being accepted on Teenreads.com until Feb. 15. Readers are being asked to list up to five of their favorite books of 2011; the five titles that receive the most votes will become finalists to be entered in a second round of voting. From there, teens will vote again to determine the ultimate winner --- the 2012 Teen Choice Book of the Year. Note: Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker) is a nominee! If you liked the novel, please consider voting for it--along with your other four picks--to reach the finals. See the full list of nominated books. (Remember, write-in titles are still being accepted.) Vote for your favorite books here! Voting eligibility: international. Anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 can vote. Deadline for voting in the nominating round: Feb. 15.

Into the Mystic says of Blessed: "This is my favorite book in this series so far!  I loved the way she brought the characters from the 2 books together and then blended that world so seamlessly with Bram Stoker!  It was a stroke of brilliance!"

Into the Mystic says of Diabolical: "Holy hot trips to Hell!!!  This book was great!  This story was very original, very fast-paced, very engaging and very witty!"

Jen Bigheart at I Read Banned Books says of Diabolical: "He {Zachary} tries his best to follow the rules, but when the ish hits the fan at the boarding school, he follows his own heart. A fast paced paranormal full of magic, mystery, and mayhem!"

Two Writing Teachers says of Diabolical: "It’s a fictitious world, and yet I found myself lost in the story. She made me care about the characters. She made me believe in the evil and trust good would triumph in the end. Her craft is tight and I found myself rereading to see how she could pack so much power in just a few words."

Midnight Reads says of of Diabolical: "There are some excellent twists in the plot and fab new characters, especially Vesper and Nigel, and the relationships between Miranda and Zachary and Quincie and Kieren are as sweet as ever. The final battle in the story is nail-biting and more than one characters life is on the line which makes for an exciting ending."

Personal Links:
From Greg Leitich Smith:
RE Greg Leitich Smith:
Cynsational Events

My Vicious Valentine: Spine-tingling YA Author Panel, featuring 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. Join us when six top YA authors dish on the devilish, gab about ghosts, and soar with the angels in this panel celebrating spine-tingling stories, supernatural creatures, and perhaps scariest of all, true love.

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.

Note: Due to volume, I can't feature the author/illustrator events of all of my Cynsational readers, but if you're Austin bound for an appearance here, let me know, and I'll try to work in a shout out or two. Thanks!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guest Post: Jessica Lee Anderson on the Creative Skin We’re In

Learn more about Jessica.
By Jessica Lee Anderson
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

One of my favorite quotes comes from Katherine Paterson, author of the Newbery-winning novel Bridge to Terebithia (HarperCollins):

“I have often noted that it takes the thinnest skin in the world to be a writer, it takes the thickest to seek out publication. But both are needed—the extreme sensitivity and the hippo hide against criticism.”

How can we cultivate the perfect skin as creative souls, the right balance of thin and thick? The thin skin to produce outstanding, unique manuscripts, and the thick skin to endure the seemingly endless waiting as well as rejection and criticism?

As Signe, a character in Kathi Appelt’s novel Keeper (Atheneum), would say, “This is a question for the universe.”

I wish I had the answer. In the ten years I’ve been writing professionally, I’ve had hippo hide moments and laughed in the face of rejection. I’ve had other moments when I practically needed stitches to sew the pieces of me together, moments when the disappointments of writing added to the mounting stresses I faced in other aspects of my life.

No, I don’t have the answer, but these ups and downs have provided some insights.

Insight #1: Avoid Harmful Exposure

Excerpt of Calli (Milkweed, 2011)
Our skin is an incredible sensory organ that holds things in place and protects us from losing water while preventing bacteria from entering at the same time. It requires care, and this is especially true for our “creative skin”.

Like wearing oven mitts when taking a hot casserole out of the oven or slathering on sunscreen, we must do what we can to avoid painful burns.

When you’re feeling especially vulnerable, try to surround yourself with people who encourage rather than those who trivialize or antagonize. Also, we need to be reminded that while writing is important, it isn’t the sum of who we are.

Examine the things that work for you and the things that don’t. Depending on where you’re at, will obsessing over book deals or reading into rejections replenish your creativity or scar it?

What about book reviews—can a few glowing comments extinguish the scorch of the negative? Will haunting book rankings or other statistics inspire or intimidate? Modify accordingly and reexamine as needed.

Many great minds have suffered greatly given the polarity of this field—don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need it.

Insight #2: Skin Care Regimen

Regardless of skin types, any good, basic skin care regiment consists of cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing. If you’re not already in the habit, rinse away dirt, doubt, grime, and insecurity. Scrub away the clogging effects of distractions—television, the Internet, and anything else that blocks you from doing the work that you were called to do. Care for your creative skin by hydrating yourself with projects you enjoy working on or by reading, taking classes, attending conferences, etc.

Insight #3: Strengthening from the Inside Out

Discussion Guide
Topical techniques are important, but to truly have healthy, resilient skin (both physical and creative), it must be nurtured from the inside out. Exercise, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and relaxation all help to reactivate our skin’s innate ability to repair itself.

Okay, okay, I know I’m taking this skin thing way too far, but as I advance into my next decade of writing, and as this market continues to change and challenge, these insights are crucial to my well being and perhaps yours, too.

Highs and lows, thin and thick—it is all a part of this crazy business.

In closing, Katherine Paterson also said, “It takes courage to lay your insides out for people to examine and sneer over. But that's the only way to give what is your unique gift to the world.”

Be courageous, give your gifts, and don’t forget to treat your creative skin well in the process.

Cynsational Notes

Jessica is a founding member of the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels.

Check out this video of her talking about patience and online distractions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Interview: Greg & Cynthia Leitich Smith on Diabolical

Candlewick & Walker Aus. NZ
By Greg Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations on the release of Diabolical - book 4 in the Tantalize series! How did this novel come to be?

Thank you! The original idea behind the Tantalize series was that Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel Dracula is loosely based on truth. Each of my first four books in the series is contemporary but moves closer to that source material. Quickly...

In book 1, Tantalize, we meet a many-times great niece of one of Van Helsing’s original vampire hunters.

In book 2, Eternal, we learn of the Mantle of Dracul, or the present-day vampire royalty.

In book 3, Blessed, we solve a present-day mystery using clues from Stoker’s novel. A literary mystery, if you will, but you don't have to have read Dracula for it to make sense.

Here, in book 4, Diabolical, we journey a modern update of the Scholomance, where the Count learned his wicked ways. Though the books can be enjoyed separately, this novel puts a cap on this super arc.

More globally, the series is set in a multi-creature-verse, featuring guardian angels and archangels, ghosts, vampires, demons, hell hounds, dragons and a myriad of shape-shifters, including a new one—the wereotter. The series has strong male and female leads and a diverse cast, defined broadly.

Don't you just adore otters?!

What I loved most about Diabolical was bringing back all four of the protagonists--Quincie, Kieren, Zachary, and Miranda--in one blockbuster storyline! It's also the most suspenseful, creepy, funny, and romantic of the books to date!

If you get scared easily, read it with the lights on or just read Miranda's point of view. She's writing from the Penultimate outside heaven. Trust me, you'll feel safer there than at the school.

So, this latest novel, like the others in the series, owes a debt to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The setting, in particular, is based on the "Scholomance," referenced by Van Helsing. Can you tell us a bit about the Scholomance (both Bram's and yours)?

Here are Stoker’s pertinent quotes:

“The Draculas were, says Arminius, a great and noble race, though now and again were scions who were held by the coevals to have had dealings with the Evil One. They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermanstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due.”

“He dared even to attend the Scholomance, and there was no branch of knowledge of his time that he did not essay.”

On one hand, it’s not a lot of information.

On the other, it’s a treasure trove.

I decided to make my Scholomance a junior feeder school to the original. I set in Vermont and then set my mind to the architecture. In Eternal and Blessed, I’d featured a castle based on Castle Bram, and I didn’t want to revisit the old school European style.

Castle Bran

I went modern instead, taking my inspiration from Mies Van der Rohe.

Jeff Crosby’s original art depiction in the book trailer (created by Shayne Leighton) is dead on to my vision.



It’s a seriously scary place, focusing heavily on the demonic. But with terrific furniture, fluffy towels, a well-stocked kitchenette and a first-class gym.

This is the first book I’ve ever written that literally gave me nightmares, but it was also, by far, the most fun. The fiercer the challenge, the more the heroes must find in themselves to combat it. Ditto the author.

The first book in the series, Tantalize, came out in 2007. Your first novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, was published in 2001. Has how your approach to writing a novel changed since then?

Notice the (((cough))) gap between my debut and sophomore novel, though I did publish a couple of other books for younger readers (Indian Shoes and Santa Knows) as well as some short stories in between, including one for young adults.

Harper/Listening Library
With Rain Is Not My Indian Name, I dived in without a plan and wrote until I found a character and then wrote until I found her story. I spent about six additional, completely unnecessary extra months on it, gathering courage but mostly spinning. That said, it was a great learning experience.

With Tantalize, I had to learn how to write a fantasy first. In fantasy, you have to do everything you would in realistic fiction, and then you need a fantastical element (or several) that is necessary and speaks to both the internal and external arcs of the story.

Among other things, that meant quality time on creature creation and other aspects of world building. I needed to think hard about the metaphors in play and the histories and connotations of the mythologies behind them.

For the first two books in the series, Tantalize and Eternal, I used my traditional method—writing the entire story with a beginning, middle, and end, and then printing it, reading it, tossing it and deleting the file.

It’s a comforting strategy, one that takes a lot of pressure off (nobody but me was going to read it anyway) and offers the opportunity to get to know the characters and their world. You don't commit to a working manuscript based on that first effort. (It would be a very shaky foundation.) Instead, you start over fresh, armed with lessons learned from the intensive pre-writing.

Once I hit Blessed, and then Diabolical, I’d already done the pre-writing for the characters and world in the previous books, so I was able to move with more of a sense of direction. At my brilliant editor’s encouragement, I do more outlining than I used to, but only in the roughest sense of the word. First, I craft a document that reads like catalog copy and then I begin expanding it from there.

Diabolical, like other novels in the series, is told from multiple points-of-view. What was it like working on the voices of each of the characters?

I’d written Zachary and Miranda’s first-person voices before in Eternal and Kieren’s in the graphic novel, Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle.

Hers was the easiest to differentiate, but the boys are both sort of men of action. They’re both in love. They both have a sense of humor. And they're both solid, stand-up dudes. So I had to really focus on the subtleties of their personalities.

Kieren is the most intelligent of all of my characters. Zachary tends to be the hardest on himself. I was tweaking language up until the final pass pages.

This novel is set outside Montpelier, Vermont. Why?

I love Vermont. I love everyone I’ve ever met there. It’s just magical to me.

Although based in Austin, I’m on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts low-residency program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and I wanted to nod to that inspiring New England setting. In Diabolical, the gorgeous winter landscape is juxtaposed against a hellishly hot invading institution; Vermont is the sweet earth that we’re fighting to get home to.


One of the new heroes, Evelyn, is a Vermonter. She’s also the brightest spirit.

Beyond that, I’ve made an effort in this series to vary the stages, and winter in Vermont was a strong contrast to the central Texas and Midwestern road-trip settings of the previous novels.

Your web site and your blog have received many honors from both writing and library organizations. What advice would you give to authors (both novices and veterans) on establishing/maintaining a web presence?

With the caveat, that it's your party and you should rock it the way that pleases you...

Your creative work should come first. Beyond that, think about your goals, your time constraints, and what you enjoy doing.

I recommend going big picture rather than building your online identity too tightly around any one book. Hopefully, you’ll have a body of work, an overarching image to convey.

But whatever you do, keep it current. Fret less about the frequency of your minor, chatty updates, more about making sure your latest release is featured with all its cover art and relevant details.

Weave the Web in accordance with your vision. Try not to get too tangled up in it. There's always a controversy of the day, many of them off-topic. If it's a subject of pertinence and passion, dive in. But try not to get sucked down every rabbit hole, especially if you don't have all the facts first.

And remember that young readers, fellow writers, event planners, gatekeepers, and other publishing professionals will use the Web to get to know you. Be the authentic you, with your best foot forward.

You've recently started using a treadmill desk. Did that take long to get used to? Do you find any difference in creative flow?

Inspired by Tracy Abell.
Not at all! I found myself quickly comfortable with simultaneously writing and walking, though reaching for a glass of water requires bracing myself and real concentration. 

I find that I’m much more focused and deliberate in my language.

More blood to the brain, I suppose.

What else is new?

I'm not a big TV person, but I have found a couple of new shows that I really like.

On the recommendation of my friend, author P.J. Hoover, I've begun watching "The Big Bang Theory". Turns out that I'm sufficiently geeky for even the more obscure jokes to resonate.

I've also become addicted to "Supernatural," on the urging of several of my YA readers. It's hugely entertaining and occasionally scary enough that I have to watch a lighter show afterward before going to sleep. I love that it's set all over the country, that Sam and Dean are from Lawrence, Kansas; where I went to college, and the cute guy factor is enormous. I also appreciate that so many speculative fiction TV alumni are cast in guest roles. Of late I've spotted Amber Benson (who played Tara Maclay on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") and Mitch Pileggi (who played Walter Skinner on "The X-Files").

I'm not caught up to current time on either series, but instead watching back-to-back episodes. "Bones" is my only can't-miss, first-run show.

In terms of recent reading, I finally got a chance to sit down with The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic) and thought it was excellent, the hype well deserved, the intensity riveting, the themes timely, and the resolution of the love triangle a real victory for carbohydrates.

What do you have coming out next?

Get to know the Leitich Smith kitties!
I look forward to the release of Eternal: Zachary’s Story, a graphic novel currently being illustrated by Ming Doyle and Smolder, which is set in the Tantalize universe, but begins a new storyline and features new protagonists.

Smolder is due to my editor at the end of this month, so this weekend you and I (by which I mean Greg and I) will be reading it aloud for a copy-edit, assisted by the cats, in the parlor. Should prove interesting!

Cynsational Notes & Giveaways

Welcome Cynthia Leitich Smith and Diabolical from Joy Preble at Joy's Novel Idea. Note: an in-depth interview about creating a diversity of work, writing as a career, balance (or lack thereof), a typical day, a double-author marriage, and more! Peek: "Be especially sure to read outside of your comfort zone. Creating art is all about thriving, innovating amidst uncertainly and chaos; reading books that challenge you is a smart way to steel yourself."

Enter to win the Diabolical Mega Package Giveaway! Author sponsored. Eligibility: international. Deadline: Feb. 8. Featuring seven signed books, wolf & otter & bat puppets, Codex Gigas necklace, angel tokens, angel mug, angel/dragon T-shirt & much more. See details.

You can also enter the Tantalize bling and iTunes gift card giveaway. Author sponsored. Eligibility: international. Deadline: Feb. 1. Featuring buttons, bookmarks & postcards. See details.

Thanks for celebrating the release of Diabolical! Tomorrow, we'll return to regular programming.

About Greg

Greg Leitich Smith writes picture books, short stories, and novels.

His next novel, Chronal Engine, will be released March 24 by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). It’s a mystery-adventure time-travel story about three teens who use their reclusive grandfather’s time machine to travel back to the Age of Dinosaurs to rescue their kidnapped sister and solve a family mystery.

Cynthia and Greg's latest joint endeavor is "The Wrath of Dawn," which appears in Geektastic: Stories by the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown).

Friend Greg at facebook. Visit GregLSBlog.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Release Day & Giveaway: Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Click to enlarge!

Enter to win a Diabolical giveaway! The grand prize includes:
In honor of the character Kieren.

Plus, sent separately...


I HEART My Guardian Angel mug; and...

I HEART My Guardian Angel T-shirt (winner's choice of sizes and styles; available in white, light blue, light yellow and pink); or...

dragon predator-and-prey shirt (winner's choice of sizes; choice of white, light blue, gray).

Note: Tantalize series logos designed by Gene Brenek; see the whole selection at Sanguini's at CafePress.

Runner-Up Prizes
  • one of two signed hardcover copies of Tantalize
  • one of two signed hardcover copies of Eternal
  • one of two signed hardcover copies of Blessed

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 you can email Cynthia directly with "Diabolical giveaway" in the subject line.

Everyone will be entered for every prize unless otherwise specified. If you have, say, an earlier book in the series and don't want another copy, please just say so! (In the alternative, you could plan to gift one to a friend or a local school/public library.)

Author-sponsored. This giveaway is for international readers--everyone is eligible!

For extra entries (itemize efforts in your entry comment/email with relevant links):

In honor of a new character, Evie.
Limit 8 entries. Deadline: Feb. 8.

About Diabolical

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available from Candlewick Press in North America, and it will be published Feb. 1 by Walker Australia and New Zealand. From the promotional copy:

When “slipped” angel Zachary and his werewolf pal, Kieren, are summoned under suspicious circumstances to a mysterious New England boarding school, they quickly find themselves in a hellish lockdown with an intriguing assortment of secretive, hand-picked “students.”

Plagued by demon dogs, hallucinatory wall decor, a sadistic instructor, and a legendary fire-breathing monster, will they somehow manage to escape? Or will the devil have his due?

Best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize series — including Zachary's girl, Miranda, and Kieren's love, Quincie — along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

Cynsational Notes

Look for this title in hardcover and e-format. E-book: 978-0-7636-5963-9.

Kirkus Reviews cheers: "A smart, playful series... A blend of romance, action and horror, this distinguishes itself from the crowd of paranormal teen fare with the employ of plenty of camp and a healthy dose of dry humor."

The Horn Book raves: "...this one runs full force on the fires of hell and the sword power of heaven."

My Vicious Valentine: Spine-tingling YA Author Panel, featuring 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. Join us when six top YA authors dish on the devilish, gab about ghosts, and soar with the angels in this panel celebrating spine-tingling stories, supernatural creatures, and perhaps scariest of all, true love.

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Guest Post: Monica Brown on Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

By Monica Brown
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Over the years, I have become known for writing children’s biographies—in 2004, my first picture book, My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia: La Vida de Celia Cruz, illustrated by Rafael López (Rising Moon, 2004) won the Américas Book Award and a Pura Belpré illustration honor, and with that launch, I was off and running.

As a professor of Latino/a and Latin American literature, it was my pleasure to introduce writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda not only to college students, but to children, who I found understood the concept of magical realism better than most adults!

Along the way, I wrote fictional stories as well, including Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposas En La Calle Carmen, illustrated by April Ward, translated by Gabriela Baeza Ventura (Piñata Books, 2007) and Chavela and the Magic Bubble, illustrated by Magaly Morales (Clarion, 2010).

During this period of intense productivity and publication, I wrote a story that had a very special place in my heart and mind.

What happens when the biographer becomes an autobiographer? I found out when I created the character of Marisol McDonald, a biracial girl, who, like me, often confounds those who think of race and culture in uncomplicated terms. I knew from experience what happens to children who don’t fit into any one box, and I was determined to see that Marisol’s story was told, for my sake, my daughters’ sake and for the millions of children who are proud of the multiplicity of their identities.

The story was “easy” to write—it flowed with all the humor and mischievousness of my own children, growing up in a close community of cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends, in a place where conversations (and lives) skated across languages and borders. We spoke Spanish, English, and sometimes—both.

I’ll never forget when my swimming teacher asked if I spoke “Peruish” or when my cousin’s new girlfriend informed me that I must be one of the “dark ones” in the family.

Monica and her daughters
The list goes on and on, and I see certain experiences being repeated with my own daughters. When my daughter Isabella was little and out and about alone with my Scandinavian-American husband, he would be asked questions such as, “Is your wife foreign?”

In the hospital where Isabella was born in eastern Tennessee, the nurses happily informed me that they had nicknamed my daughter “the little Eskimo.”

I wondered about the source of that particular nickname until the day the women mopping my hospital room floor approached me to tell me how beautiful my daughter was.

“Thank you!” I replied, in complete agreement.

She and I talked for a long time about our children, and I found out that she was . . . Native Alaskan.

Like me, she had married a European-American and our daughters were true mestizas. She, I, and my daughter Isabella had something else in common—none of us fit into neat ethnic boxes.

Through the process of writing and reflecting, I realized that Marisol’s story wasn’t just about race, or even culture, but it was about being a nonconformist—a spirit that was driven by different weather patterns, desires, and a unique view of the world.

Thus, my manuscript, "Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match" was completed and much to my disappointment, it did not find a home. Having published over eleven picture books with small, medium, and large publishers, why was this manuscript the most challenging to place?

Monica writing at her kitchen table
Considering the paucity of books representing the biracial experience, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.

It is my firmly held belief that writers must become good friends with rejection, and I experienced it with this manuscript.

Apparently one can write an “edgy” picture book, and in my case, the edge came from attempts to write honestly about teasing, skin color, language, and insecurity.

Happily, Children’s Book Press of San Francisco took the chance with Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina, illustrated by Sara Palacios, translated by Adriana Dominguez, and she is now out and about in the world.

I’ll leave you with the final thoughts I share with my readers in the authors note:

People sometimes ask us "what are you?" and, yes, sometimes even say that we "don’t match." But we know better. Our mothers told us that we were Americans, yes, but also citizens of the world.

My life (and I’ll bet yours too) is bound up with the history of many peoples, and like Marisol McDonald, I open my arms wide and embrace them all.

Monica at her university office.
Cynsational Notes

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios, translated by Adriana Dominguez (Children's Book Press) is a 2012 Pura Belpré Award honor book in illustration. See the full slate of 2012 Youth Media Award winners and honor books from the American Library Association.

Check out the curriculum guide for Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match.

Don't miss Children's & YA Books with Interracial Family Themes by Cynthia Leitich Smith from Children's & YA Literature Resources.

NAACP Image Awards Youth/Teens Outstanding Literary Work

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The 43rd NAACP Image Awards Youth/Teens Outstanding Literary Work: Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin); Eliza's Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary by Jerdine Nolan, illustrated by Sadra Strickland (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman); Jesse Owens: I Always Loved Running by Jeff Burlingame (Enslow); Kick by Walter Dean Myers, co-authored by Ross Workman (HarperTeen); Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes (Bloomsbury).

Cynsational Notes

Kekla Magoon on Truth, Inspiration, and Camo Girl from Cynsations. Peek: "The story’s themes of friendship, loyalty, fitting in, and self-acceptance all rested very close to my heart, but when people asked why I wrote the book, I found myself hemming and hawing."

Co-authors Interview: Walter Dean Myers & Ross Workman on Kick from Cynsations. Peek: "I...saw, first hand, that the experience of writing increases the ability to write. Ross wrote much more convincingly at the end of this project than he did at the onset. I believe that structure helps in the writing process and working with Ross on Kick served to reaffirm this in my mind."

The 2012 ALA Youth Media Awards are currently being announced live. Look for more Cynsations coverage of children's-YA book award winners, honor books, finalists and lists in the days to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Awards: NAACP Image, Orbis Pictus & Zolotow

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations



The 43rd NAACP Image Awards Children's Outstanding Literary Work: Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander, illustrated Tim Bower (Sleeping Bear); Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome (Schwartz & Wade); Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray); White Water by Michael S. Bandy, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Candlewick); You Can Be A Friend by Tony Dungy and Lauren Dungy, illustrated by Ron Mazellan (Little Simon). Watch Feb. 17 for the winner!



NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children from The National Council of Teachers of English: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin); honor books: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade); Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons by Harold Holzer (Calkins Creek); Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, illulstrated by Julie Paschkis (Henry Holt); Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thomson (Candlewick); The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low). See also Recommended Books.



Patrick McDonnell Wins 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award from the Cooperative Children's Book Center. Me … Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown, 2011) is the fifteenth annual winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award for outstanding writing in a picture book. The award is given by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be presented on March 3 in Madison.

Cynsational Notes

2012 American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards to be Announced Jan. 23 from PaperTigers. Peek: "The ALA will host a live Webcast from the Dallas Convention Center beginning at 7:30 a.m. CT, Jan. 23. Virtual seating will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Information will also be posted to the ALA Twitter account @alayma and Facebook account."

See Friday's Cynsational News & Giveaways for more recent children's-YA book award announcements (Edgar, Sydney Taylor, Scott O'Dell).
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