Tuesday, February 07, 2012

New Voice: John M. Cusick on Girl Parts

Now in paperback
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

John M. Cusick is the first-time author of Girl Parts (Candlewick, 2010, 2012) and the free e-book "Abandon Changes: A Girl Parts Story" (also Candlewick). From the promotional copy: 

David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody.

When David’s parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat his "dissociative disorder," he can’t get enough of luscious redheaded Rose --and he can’t get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. 

Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up, knowing Rose isn’t real. With Charlie’s help, the ideal "companion" is about to become her own best friend.

In a stunning and hilarious debut, John Cusick takes rollicking aim at internet culture and our craving for meaningful connection in an uberconnected world.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

Free e-book
The only way I can stay productive is through force of habit. Six days a week, two hours a day, I write. When writing a first draft, I shoot for five pages a day, usually completing three to seven.

My weekly day off usually isn’t planned; I just write until life happens and I have to run an errand or catch up on sleep instead.

I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ve trained my brain to get inspired around 8:30 every morning, usually after the second or third cup of coffee. And when I’m not inspired, I just start putting words on the page until I find a thread I like, or it’s time to head into the office.

In the long run, a routine keeps me sane. Rather than saying, “I have to write well,” I say, “I have to write today.” This way I can feel good about putting in the hours even when I’ve had an off morning, and for the rest of the day, my writer-brain can rest and refresh.

And of course, the more you write, the better you get, period

In addition to being my passion, writing is also an income stream for me, so I’ve got to treat it like a job. But I was working this schedule long before I got published, and it helped me get there.

Before writing, I have to read for at least half-an-hour to get my brain thinking in complete sentences. I’ve never been a “voracious” reader, and never subscribed to the read widely rule you sometimes hear writers espouse; I’m too picky and I read too slowly.

My tastes do vary, from Ian Fleming to Jeffery Eugenides, but there’s just too much great stuff out there to slog through five-hundred pages of something I’m not excited about, or to read books too different from what I want to write.

I’m sure there’s some phenomenal experimental memoirs in verse out there, but not for me, thanks.

For the larger-picture stuff, like story arcs and theme, I find television and movies are a great tool. It’s hard to trace a character’s development, or the rising action and tension, when reading a book over the course of a week, but absorbing a movie’s story in two hours gives me a more immediate sense of how the writer (screenwriter, in this case) structured their tale.

By far the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome as an author is something I think a lot of other young writers struggle with: how to tell a story. Pretty language? No problem. I will seduce you with my flowery prose! Social themes? Learned that in college, my motifs run deep, baby.

But story? That’s the trickiest.

How do you keep the reader turning the pages? How do you make your protagonist active instead of a passive observer? Learning to tell stories that move and excite, rather than try to craft “works of art” to be dissected in a classroom, is something I constantly wrestle with and a major reason I write for teens.

Hardcover edition
Teens don’t care if your metaphors are genius, or if your novel is a retelling of Crime and Punishment. They want story. They want characters they feel for, who alter and are altered by the world around them.

While working on my follow-up to Girl Parts I had a major case of English Major-itis. I was more interested in how I was telling my story— i.e. my style— than my what my characters were experiencing.

Eventually I had to go back and start over from word one. It’s been a ton of work, but man what an education! So far I’m happy with the results. I have no idea what my social themes or over-arching metaphors might be, but I know my story.

As a science fiction writer, how did you go about building your world?

I wanted the world of Girl Parts to be recognizably our own, so the characters’ problems would feel immediate and familiar. Yet I was writing about some seriously sci-fi-sophisticated robots.

I decided Sakora, the company that makes Rose and the other Companions, would be light-years ahead of their competitors, but still in the beta-testing stages of their robot-program. That way, the Companions would not be a widespread phenomenon like cell phones or laptops.

Otherwise, I wanted the technology in Girl Parts to be entirely contemporary: David Sun has a cell phone and an iPod, he chats online and spends time in a Second Life-like virtual world.

Electronically, he’s uber-connected, but doesn’t feel an emotional attachment to anyone or anything. This, to me, isn’t sci-fi but a real problem teens face.

The real fun came in figuring out Rose’s physiology. We can assume a few things about the way most human characters think and feel even without knowing their back stories. I had to build Rose from the ground up, keeping in mind who built her and why.

I decided Sakora would give her a finite vocabulary; Rose would learn slang and jargon by listening to the humans around her (like CleverBot, which didn’t exist when I was writing Girl Parts).

Like any expensive piece of hardware, she’d need a satellite link, so her creators could download software updates, and so Rose could effectively “Google” any phrase or situation she wasn’t familiar with. To be a better human-analog, Rose would eat food, which she would “process” in private with a dainty burp. As a high-end consumer product, Rose would come equipped with her own wardrobe, “ablutions”, and instructional DVD.

I wanted Rose’s packaging and accessories to feel flashy, cheap, and banal to underscore the very real, very humane thoughts and feelings going on inside her.

Figuring how Rose would think was another fun task. I have a sketch above my desk labeled “Rose’s Brain,” which I drew while writing a later draft: it’s just an arrow bounded by a circle. I decided that the reductive egg-heads at Sakora would give Rose a very Freudian brain, with an Id (Rose’s innate desire for David) checked by a Super Ego (the rules, guidelines, and morays Sakora enforces on her from without). Today I still use this as a guideline for most of my characters: a strong desire, checked by outside forces. I only drew the picture to help me conceptualize Rose’s mind, but the image found its way into the language of the novel, too, and then, to my surprise, became a running motif. This is how it appears in the book:

Rose’s mind was an arrow. It pointed to David. The rest of reality, whatever didn’t fall along the length of the arrow, was insignificant. An Ethernet link connected Rose to a data bank at Sakura HQ in Japan. As her emerald eyes passed over the lawn, information queued for access. Grass. Flower pot. Stairs. Driveway. Tree. Each node was the center of its own web. Tree connecting to Green, Poplar, Seasons, Paper. This complex veil, pierced by Rose’s unwavering arrow, was a techno-semantic marvel.

Cynsational Notes

Don't miss these Girl Parts character destinations:
See also excerpt, sample chapter, audio book sample.

Diabolical Is Now Available from Walker Australia and New Zealand & Giveaway Last Call!

Deadline: midnight CST Feb. 8! Enter here!
 By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize, Book 4) is now available from Walker Australia and New Zealand. Note: previously released in North America; more releases pending.

Last call! Enter to win the Diabolical Grand Prize Giveaway! Author sponsored. Deadline: Feb. 8. Eligibility: international. Enter here! Check out Greg & Cynthia Leitich Smith on Diabolical.

From the promotional copy:

Prepare for a hell of a ride as Cynthia Leitich Smith calls on characters from her previous novels - and conjures up new ones - for a climatic showdown.

Wereotter finger puppet!
'Slipped' angel Zachary is chasing redemption. If he can save enough neophyte vampires, he’ll be allowed to reunite with his love, Miranda. The ex-vampire princess is passing her time in the Penultimate, a way-station for ascended souls, while trying to avoid the people she murdered.

When Miranda discovers her best friend is in danger at a mysterious New England college, she tasks Zach, his vampiric ward, Quincie, and werewolf pal, Kieren, with performing a covert rescue.

But can these preternaturals save a human from Lucifer himself? Or will the devil have his due?

Best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize series along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.



Monday, February 06, 2012

Giveaway Package: New York Times Bestseller One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo & David Small

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter for a chance to win:
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 "One Cool Friend" in the subject line.

Author-sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Deadline: midnight CST Feb. 20.

From the promotional copy of One Cool Friend:

On a momentous visit to the aquarium, Elliot discovers his dream pet: a penguin. It's just proper enough for a straight-laced boy like him. And when he asks his father if he may have one (please and thank you), his father says yes. 

Elliot should have realized that Dad probably thought he meant a stuffed penguin and not a real one...

Clever illustrations and a wild surprise ending make this sly, silly tale of friendship and wish fulfillment a kid-pleaser from start to finish.

Cynsational Notes

Toni was one of my earliest writing partners. At the beginning of our careers, as unpublished writers, we were paired by our mutual mentor, Jane Kurtz, and, for some years, exchange manuscripts online.

Today, Toni is a popular and well published author of numerous picture books and teacher/librarian resource books! It's a thrill to see her latest picture book, One Cool Friend, on the New York Times bestseller list! Congratulations, Toni!

Toni Buzzeo, a former English teacher and elementary school librarian, is a popular author of picture books who divides her time between Sarasota, Florida, and Buxton, Maine. She also is the author of two of the most popular posts in the history of Cynsations -- Author-Librarian Interview: Toni Buzzeo on School Visits (part one and part two).

David Small is a Caldecott Medal winner, National Book Award finalist, and Christopher Award winner, among other honors. The illustrator of more than forty books, he lives in southern Michigan.

Ongoing Cynsations giveaways also include the Diabolical Grand Prize Giveaway (author sponsored, international eligibility, Feb. 8 deadline); Giveaway: Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012)(author sponsored, U.S. eligibility, Feb. 13 deadline); Six-book Giveaway of Bewitching, Beastly Deluxe Edition and Cloaked by Alex Flinn (author sponsored, U.S. eligibility; Feb. 20 deadline).

In the video below, visit Toni's Writing Cottage:

Author Video: David Ezra Stein on Interrupting Chicken

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

From Candlewick Press: "Watch author-illustrator David Ezra Stein talk about how he developed the idea and the artwork for his Caldecott Award Honor Winning book Interrupting Chicken. Bwok!"

See also A Conversation with David Erza Stein: Creator of Interrupting Chicken and Interrupting Chicken Candlewick Press Story-Hour Kit (both PDFs).

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Author Video: Take the Jack the Ripper Tour with YA Author Maureen Johnson

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Maureen Johnson, author of the YA supernatural thriller The Name of the Star takes us on a trip round the East End of London with bloggers and fans of her book. From the promotional copy:

Sixteen-year-old American girl Rory has just arrived at boarding school in London when a Jack the Ripper copycat-killer begins terrorising the city. All the hallmarks of his infamous murders are frighteningly present, but there are few clues to the killer's identity.

"Rippermania" grabs hold of modern-day London, and the police are stumped with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. In an unknown city with few friends to turn to, Rory makes a chilling discovery...

Could the copycat murderer really be Jack the Ripper back from the grave?





The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Six-Book Giveaway: Signed Copies of Bewitching, Beastly Deluxe Edition & Cloaked by Alex Flinn

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of the following autographed books:

To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or you can email Cynthia directly with "Alex Flinn Giveaway" in the subject line. Deadline: Feb. 20. Author sponsored. U.S. entries only.

More Information

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.

Be a fan of Alex Flinn at facebook.

From the Betwitching (Harper Teen, 2012) promotional copy:

Bewitching can be a beast. . . .

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn't.

I go to a new school now--one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I'm not still here because I'm stupid; I just don't age.

You see, I'm immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years--except for when to take my powers and butt out.

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the "Titanic" lifeboat? I don't even want to think about it.

Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn't get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl--and it isn't an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start . . . bewitching.



From the Beastly Deluxe Edition (Harper Teen, 2012) promotional copy:

See it through both their eyes.

Beastly

I am a beast.

A beast. You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.


Lindy's Diary

Diary, I am locked away . . . with no one to confi de in but you . . . and him. His fur, those claws—they caught me off guard at first, but now I'm noticing something else about him—something deeper. It's the look in his eye. It tells me he's got a secret to keep. That's okay—I've got one, too. I think I'm falling in love with him. . . . Lindy

From the Cloaked (Harper Teen, 2012) promotional copy:

I'm not your average hero. I actually wasn't your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.

It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.

There wasn't a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I've ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Everglades.

Don't believe me? I didn't believe it either. But you'll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got cloaked.



Cynsational Notes

Last Call! Grand Prize Giveaway: Diabolical by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker, 2012) from Cynsations.  Author sponsored. Deadline: Feb. 8. Eligibility: international. Check out Greg & Cynthia Leitich Smith on Diabolical.

Reminder! Giveaway: Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012) from Cynsations. Publisher sponsored. Deadline: Feb. 13. Eligibility: U.S. Check out Kelly Starling Lyons on Ellen's Broom.

New! Enter to win We've Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson from EMU'S Debuts. Deadline: Feb. 7.

See also Cynsational News & Giveaways for the most inspiring and useful news of this week in the kidlitosphere and even more book giveaways!

American Indian Youth Literature Awards

Source: John Amundsen
American Library Association
at Cynsations



The American Indian Library Association has selected The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier; Free Throw and Triple Threat, both by Jacqueline Guest; and Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School by Adam Fortunate Eagle, as recipients of the fourth American Indian Youth Literature Awards.

The awards were announced at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, held Jan. 20 to Jan. 24 in Dallas, and will be presented at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.; June 21 to June 26.

The American Indian Youth Literature Awards were created to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians, Alaska Natives, Canadian First Nations and Native Hawaiians. The winning and honor titles authentically convey the past and present of the American Indian experience. The awards are given in three categories—Picture Book, Middle School and Young Adult.

“We hope that these awards will raise the visibility of quality works by American Indian authors and artists,” said AILA President Sandy Littletree, “These awards help librarians, teachers and parents select quality books by and about Native people, titles that are accurate, non-stereotypical and honor the fullness of Native lives."

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier and published by Holiday House in 2011 won the Picture Book award.



Sneve recalls a Christmas from her early 20th-century South Dakota childhood when her family awaited “Theast” boxes of clothing from New England, a common experience on western reservations yet today. Virginia learns lessons of patience, sharing, gratitude and privilege as she helps her parents sort the clothes for others in the reservation community when the boxes arrive at her father’s church just in time for Christmas. Beier’s warm, wintry and realistic illustrations of the Dakota reservation community and their own version of Christmas make this a beautiful book to be read year round.

Four titles were selected as Honor Books in the Picture Book category, including:

Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Karen Clarkson and published by Cinco Puntos Press in 2010;



Kohala Kuamo’o: Nae’ole’s Race to Save a King by Kekauleleana’ole Kawai’ae’a, illustrated by Aaron Kawai’ae’a, story by Walter and Luana Kawai’ae’a and published by Kamehameha Publishing in 2010;


Mohala Mai ‘O Hau = How Hau Became Hau’ula by Robert Lono ‘Ikuwa, pictures by Matthew Kawika Ortiz and published by Kamehameha Publishing in 2010; and...



I See Me by Margaret Manuel by Margaret Manuel and published by Theytus Books in 2009.


Free Throw (2011) and Triple Threat (2011), both by Jacqueline Guest and published by James Lorimer & Company Ltd. won the Middle Grades award.



These companion titles feature 13-year-old Matt Eagletail, a Tsuu T’ina basketball player coping with a new (non-Native) stepdad and five new stepsisters - the oldest of whom, 12-year-old Jazz, is also a basketball player. On top of that, he and his mother move with his new stepfamily to a town just off his reserve in Alberta, Canada, and Matt has to go to a new school and decide whether to try out for his new middle school basketball team. Although basketball fans will root for Matt, even non-sports fans will enjoy Matt’s adjustments with his new family and school, familiar issues of sibling rivalry, blending families, pride in his First Nations heritage and finding new friends via sports Internet chat rooms, who later come to visit from the U.S.

Two titles were selected as Honor Books in the Middle Grades category, including:

Jordin Tootoo: The Highs and Lows in the Journey of the First Inuit to Play in the NHL by Melanie Florence and published by James Lorimer & Company Ltd. (2011); and


Awesiinyensag: Dibaajimowinan Ji-Gikinoo’amaageng by Anton Treuer et al. and published by Wiigwaas Press in 2010.



Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School by Adam Fortunate Eagle and published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2010 won the Young Adult award.



Books and news stories about the demeaning experiences of indigenous children in Indian boarding schools and First Nations residential schools have been increasingly common.

Adam Fortunate Eagle, an Ojibwe activist and boarding school survivor, offers a different perspective on the boarding school experience. Told in the first person as if he was currently an elementary school student, but with an adult’s hindsight, Fortunate Eagle offers a rollickingly funny, realistic, warm and sensitive memoir of his and his brothers’ school days at Pipestone Indian Boarding School in Minnesota from 1935-1945. This is a wonderful book that pulls no punches but is also well-rounded and entertaining and great for reading aloud.

One title was named as an Honor Book in the Young Adult category:

Native Defenders of the Environment and other titles in the Native Trailblazers series by Victor Schilling and published by 7th Generation (2011).


Cynsational Notes

Guest Post: Illustrator Ellen Beier on The Christmas Coat from Cynsations. Peek: "Having gathered more material than could fit in the 32-page book, I set up a blog/website celebrating The Christmas Coat with recipes, coloring pages, meet the author and illustrator, and the making of the book (with more activities to come)."

Check out the English language and Hawaiian language versions of the book trailer for Mohala Mai ‘O Hau = How Hau Became Hau’ula.



Friday, February 03, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win an ARC of Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin: Book 1 by Robin LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) from P.J. Hoover at Roots in Myth. Note: Grave Mercy is highly recommended.

Lee & Low Acquires Children's Book Press by Wendy Werris from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Children’s Book Press, founded in 1975 by Harriet Rohmer for the specific purpose of creating a line of bilingual and multicultural books, ceased operations at the end of September and has sold its backlist inventory of 90 titles to Lee & Low Books in New York."

Gantos, Raschka, Whaley: Where They Were When the Award Call Came from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "...three lucky authors got phone calls from the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz committees, letting each of them know they had won the top prize. And whether they were at home when the call came (in the case of Jack Gantos), in search of a missing cell phone (Chris Raschka), or on the highway heading to Dallas (John Corey Whaley), the messages awaiting them on the other end of the line were life-changing. What was going through their minds when the phone rang? And what did they do next?"

4 Ways to Find the Right Freelance Editor from Jane Friedman. Peek: "A great editor doesn’t need to have a lot of letters after their name, nor do they need to be able to give you a list of New York Times best-selling authors they’ve edited for. But they should have background or experience that makes them suitable to edit the type of work you have." See recommended children's-YA freelance editors and writing coaches.

The 28th Annual Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth is scheduled for April 12 and April 13 at the Kent State University Student Center in Ohio. Featured speakers are Alma Flor Ada, Lisa Yee and E.B. Lewis.

Texas Book Bloggers are Rock Stars by Joy Preble from Joy's Novel Idea. Joy interviews Sourcebooks publicists Derry Wilkens and Kay Mitchell. Peek from Kay: "They are a fantastic group of people as a whole and really lovely as individuals as well. I have an enormous amount of respect for what you all do—especially those of you who also have other jobs, families to take care of, that kind of thing. I bow down to your ability to multitask." Note: first in a series of interviews with Texas book bloggers. See also Joy with Mundie Moms and Girls in the Stacks, Stephanie Pellegrin and Jen Bigheart, Kristin, Tillie, Amy, Maria Cari Soto, Sarah Evans, and Christin Baker (posts are ongoing).

Celebrate Black History Month with Picture Books by Jennifer Shultz from ALSC Blog. Peek: "Since there are many superb titles that feature the history of African-Americans, let’s chat specifically about picture books for the purposes of this discussion."

Congratulations to Gwenda Bond on her two-book deal with Strange Chemistry via Jennifer Laughran, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. The first book, Blackwood, will be one of the imprint’s September 2012 launch titles, with the second following in 2013.

Imagining Multiple Platforms by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "I urge debut writers whose interest lies primarily in landing a print book deal to focus there first. If you try to pitch an idea in too many directions at once (as a magazine, app, TV show, clothing line) without first having any print titles under your belt, agents and editors will think you’re ambitious…and not in a good way."

Making Her Vision a Reality: Hannah Goodman Launches Edgy YA Sucker Literary Magazine by Mima Tipper from Hen and Ink. Download the free magazine.

The Writing Barn: A Workshop Space that Celebrates Books and Their Creators in Austin, Texas. Available for workshops, overnight stays, and book launches. Owner: children's-YA author Bethany Hegedus, who also offers private instruction to writers. See also The Top Ten Reasons You Want to Hold Your Next Event at the Writing Barn by P.J. Hoover from Roots in Myth.

What To Do When Your Character Goes to Court by Blythe Leszkay from Writing Mystery is Murder. Peek: "You’re not sure what evidence can or can’t be used in court, or how it should all play out. So, you let a great story idea drop away out of ignorance and fear."

J.K. Rowling's Plot Chart for Order of the Phoenix from The Good Stuff. Source: Brooklyn Arden.

Marketing and Publicity for Authors, Part 1 by Janet Fox from Through the Wardrobe. Peek: "Most authors I know do a significant amount of marketing; I know I do. For the next several weeks I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned since the publication of my first book...."

Some Packing Tips for Conferences by Kimmie Poppins from Jess Free Falcon. Peek: "Wear comfortable shoes.  Your fancy shoes should be comfortable and then also bring a really comfortable pair and plan your outfit around them for Sunday--because by then your feet hate you."

Invention by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Diary of a Writer. Peek: "...coming up with inventive twists and turns of a story or inventive ideas that propel scenes or give characters a compelling otherness that’s hard to resist as a reader."

EMU's Debuts Proudly Presents We've Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson by Mike Jung: post traces the book from an agent recommendation by Chris Barton, to signing with Erin Murphy, to acquisitions at Peachtree. Peek from Erin: "The Civil Rights era and its major players have been covered so much in children’s literature, and here was a brand-new take with the most kid-interesting window that I could dare to imagine. This was a book that could change kids’ lives." See also The Heroes of Birmingham by Lynda Mullaly Hunt from EMU's Debuts.

17th Annual Postgraduate Writers' Conference from Aug. 13 to Aug. 19 at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Join Cynthia Leitich Smith and Tim Wynne-Jones in studying the YA novel.

Congratulations to author-illustrator Divya Srinivasan on signing with agent Ty King at Writer's House at Writer's House, and congratulations to Ty on signing Divya! See a Cynsations interview with Divya.

Marketing Your Digital Book: What's the Plan? from e is for book. Featuring How to Promote Your Children's Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller by Katie Davis. Peek: "The book's tone is lighthearted and conversational while the content is comprehensive and well-organized. There are many, many tips from the various author/illustrator/librarian/blogger contributors plus links galore to a huge variety of resources." Giveaway deadline: midnight Feb. 3. See also the list of Katie's other tour stops for more chances to win.

Big Sur Writing Workshops for Children's Books from Picture Books Through Young Adult Fiction will be March 2 to March 4 in Seaside/Monterey. Faculty includes editor Lisa Yoskowitz of Hyperion, editor Sharyn November of Viking, editor Julie Romeis of Chronicle, authors Catherine Ryan Hyde and Eric J. Adams, and the eight agents of Andrea Brown Literary. Source: Literary Rambles.

CBC Diversity: new blog. Peek: "The CBC Diversity Committee is dedicated to increasing the diversity of voices and experiences contributing to children’s literature. To create this change, the Committee strives to build awareness that the nature of our society must be represented within the children’s publishing industry. We endeavor to encourage diversity of race, gender, geographical origin, sexual orientation, and class among both the creators of and the topics addressed by children’s literature. We strive for a more diverse range of employees working within the industry, of authors and illustrators creating inspiring content, and of characters depicted in children’s literature."

Challenge, Counter, Controvert: Subverting Expectations by Uma Krishnaswami from Write at Your Own Risk. Peek: "I'm writing this from India where continuum and contradiction are present in tandem: Republic Day flag-buntings and traditional rice-flour kolam on thresholds and sidewalks, the whir of ceiling fans and the shrieking of tropical birds at daybreak. Here, controverting meaning is part of daily life."

For Crying Out Loud by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "I don’t much like to see crying for crying’s sake. There are manuscripts I’ve read that have characters screaming, raging, crying, laughing, and every other powerful emotion in between. But they fail to strike a chord. Why? Because rather than seeing those external displays of emotion, I’d rather know the exact thoughts that bring those tears about."

Party 2 p.m. March 24 at BookPeople!
Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Black Henry Activity Guide: features discussion questions, activities, writing exercise, word search, cryptogram, and word scramble.

Reminder: Submit a Photo of Yourself with a Dinosaur to Greg Leitich Smith to take part in his series of blog posts featuring children's-YA authors, illustrators, and other members of the community (booksellers, teachers, publicists, etc.) with dinosaurs to promote your books or other bookish pursuits and in celebration of Greg's upcoming release, Chronal Engine (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Note: it doesn't have to be an actual, living dinosaur...because that would be challenging. See examples.

28 Days Later: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "To celebrate children’s authors and illustrators of color, during the twenty-eight days of Black History Month we’ll profile a different artist (each day). Vanguard artists are those who have paved the way for newer authors and illustrators, all others are considered 'under the radar.'" See Day 1: Kwame Alexander, Day 2: Denise Lewis Patrick, Day 3: Noni Carter (posts are ongoing).

Ending Well by Christine Kohler from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "Editors say to end stories organically. What does that mean? It does not mean is to sum up the story or project into the future. To end organically means the ending should grow out of the heart of the story in a natural way."

Using Selective Visual Details to Power Your Story by Martina from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. Peek: "...picking details that your character can relate to, helps our readers relate to our characters."

Is All This Hard Work Ever Going to Pay Off? from Jody Hedlund: Author & Speaker. Peek: "Yes, keep climbing, but we need to learn to enjoy each step as it comes, celebrate the small accomplishments, and find joy in the process of creating." Source: Phil Giunta.

Cynsational Giveaways


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

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.

Enter to win a copy of Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012). To enter, comment on this post (click 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 "Ellen's Broom" in the subject line. Deadline: Feb. 13. Publisher sponsored. U.S. entries only. See also Kelly Starling Lyons on Ellen's Broom.

Inkies Extravaganza Book Giveaway from the Enchanted Inkpot. Three prize packages of eight books each. Hurry! The winner will be announced Feb. 4. Note: please change your subscriptions/blog rolls to the Inkies new URL.

Win a Chained Book Club Kit from Lynne Kelly at Making Stuff Up & Writing It Down. Kit includes: 10 hardcover copies of Chained (FSG, 2012), a Chained tote bag, bookmarks and signed bookplates for each member of your class or group, and up to an hour-long Skype visit. Grades 3 to 8. Deadline: May 1.

Winners of the Tantalize series bookmark/postcard/bling/iTunes giveaway are Terri in Oklahoma, Rachel in Bedfordshire (U.K.), Artemis in Athens (Greece), Lysette in California, Laurisa in California, Jamie in Oregon, Jenn in Wyoming, and Deena in New York, Alishia in Western Australia, Perla in California, Tayte in Illinois, Mera in Maryland, Tina in Georgia, and Vivien in Kansas.

The winner of signed copies of Love? Maybe. (Dial, 2012) and The Cupcake Queen (Dutton, 2009, 2010), both by Heather Hepler, and various nifty sweet treats is Candace in Virginia, and the runner-up is Lisa in Florida.

This Week's Cynsations Posts

More Personally
Flowers from my mom and stepdad in celebration of Diabolical!
Wow! January 2012 was the all-time highest traffic month at Cynsations, beating the second-highest month, August 2009! Thank you so much for your ongoing enthusiasm and support! I'm honored!

Great news! Smolder is off to my Candlewick editor. I look forward to receiving notes from her next week and revising from there. New deadline: end of February!

Contributor copies of Girl Meets Boy!
Diabolical is the Prep School from Hell -- Literally by M.K. from Popcorn Reads. Peek: "Yes, this is a YA novel...however, it's more of a story about resolve, determination and finding the strength to stand up and be counted. For that reason, it will appeal to folks of all ages. ...I think you are really going to enjoy Diabolical!"

Sonja Somerville of The Salem (Oregon) Statesman Journal says of Blessed: "Lighthearted and genuinely funny, Quincie and her posse are interesting characters to know." Note: Sonja also is the Salem Public Library teen librarian.

Book Reviews & More says of Tantalize: Kieren's Story: "Ming Doyle has captured the essence of the shifter world that Cynthia has created in her previous three novels. The story is well told in word and art. It was a good read and added to the story we already know and love. Well done."

Book Reviews & More says of "Haunted Love," a free e-book short story: "...you will love the story as it just adds to her cannon and we can't help but wonder who the mysterious inline seller of the energy elixir is. For those who have yet to read her works, it will draw you in. Her writings, in this world she created, are very addictive."

Thanks to Victoria Scott for this shot from Barnes & Noble in Dallas.
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.

Personal Links:
From 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.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at an Alamosa Books Author Event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 7 in Albuquerque.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith on March 10 and March 10 at Tuscon Festival of Books. Panels: from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 10 "Blood and Kisses: Paranormal Romance with Courtney Rene and Aprilynne Pike," followed by signing and from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. March 11 "What's New & Who's Reading Now? with Janni Lee Simner, R.L. Stine & Aprilynne Pike," followed by signing.

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.

Join Greg Leitich Smith at the Chronal Engine Launch Party at 2 p.m. March 24 at BookPeople in Austin. See also the Chronal Engine Activity Guide.

See Cynthia's upcoming events in Sandy (Utah), Bastrop (Texas), Southampton (New York), and Montpelier (Vermont), among others. 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, February 02, 2012

Maria Martella: A Wholesaler’s Perspective on the Children’s Book Industry

Author Frieda Wishinsky introduces Maria Martella.
By Lena Coakley
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Imagine if it was your job to choose books for thousands of children every year. As a school and library wholesaler, Maria Martella does just that by helping teachers and librarians select books for their classrooms and libraries.

This past December, CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, invited a group of booksellers and wholesalers to their Toronto monthly meeting to talk about how books are chosen for schools and libraries and what (if anything) authors can do to help boost their sales.

Maria, owner of Tinlids, a Canadian wholesaler of children's and young adult books, was one of the speakers. This article is a summary of her talk, shared with permission of all parties.

Maria’s introduction to the book industry came in 1982 when she left social work and got a job managing The Children’s Bookstore in Toronto, which was both a retail store and a wholesaler. After this iconic store closed, she and Scott Millar founded Tinlids (the name means ‘kids’ in rhyming slang), which has since gone on to become one of the key library booksellers in Canada.

When Maria first started at The Children’s Bookstore, she was amazed and delighted to be working in a place that sold only children’s books—a rarity at that time—but she was dismayed by how few Canadian books were being published in 1982; the Canadian section at The Children’s Bookstore was only a short wall.

Canadian publishing has come a long way since then. Now thousands of Canadian children’s books are published each year. Organizations that support authors and publishers are flourishing, like The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, which administers a $25,000 children’s book prize and distributes a children’s book to every Canadian first grader each year.

These days, a child living in a trailer in Saskatchewan can see her life reflected in a book like I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood), and a child living without a proper school in Attawapiskat can read a book like Shannen and the Dream for a School by Janet Wilson (Second Story). These are all changes that Maria is happy to see.

However, the success of the Canadian publishing industry has meant that she has had to become much more discriminating about what books she selects for the shelves at Tinlids. The days when she could buy every Canadian book published are long past.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre
How does she choose? In two words: she reads. Book publishing reps come to see her every season, making recommendations and leaving samples. Unfortunately, Maria and her staff cannot always read every book, but they get to know the authors and the reps that they can trust. In addition, Maria reads reviews, children’s book journals, and blogs, and is on the review committee for The Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

When asked about current trends, Maria was quick to point out that her buying patterns are probably different from a retail store, which might focus more on the hot genres like dystopian and paranormal fiction. She caters to teachers and librarians who need to have a wide range of genres to tempt every student. They also have considerations like the school curriculum and reluctant readers to take into account.

With teachers and librarians, Maria finds that wordless picture books are back in, possibly because of ESL needs, and graphic novels continue to be popular. In spite of recent articles bemoaning the demise of the picture book, Maria does not see a decline in her picture book sales. In fact, she sees teachers in higher grades requesting them now, and hopes we will continue to see more “advanced” picture books, dealing with social issues like war and poverty.

One trend Maria finds frustrating is the leveled readers librarians are now requesting. In general, she doesn’t find these books well written and engaging enough to inspire a life-long love of reading.

Visit Tinlids blog.
With limited budgets, librarians are having to focus on buying for the school curriculum rather than buying an array of books that will delight and engage many different kinds of students.

The way to create a reader, she says, is to “fill a room with books.” She believes that having a variety of books of excellent quality will inevitably tempt even the most reluctant reader. In her 29 years as a bookseller, Maria has hired a number of students who have claimed not to be readers, only to find them reading in the stacks.

Her advice to the authors in the audience: be brave and authentic. Though it seems like everyone these days wants to publish a trendy book with a large publisher, there will always be children who will want the books that aren’t trendy, and these children need to be served.

“You can’t be too market led either as an author or a bookseller,” she said. “Children are more diverse than we think.” And as far as having a large publisher goes, having a small one can have its advantages. At Tinlids she finds that it’s often the smaller publishers who are more hands-on when it comes to promoting and getting behind an individual book.

To conclude, Maria gave a final piece advice to the writers in the audience: “Understand who is selling your book.”

She confessed that she found it frustrating to go on an author’s website and find only links to large chains and amazon.com. Unless you are a very well-known author, a large chain is probably not keeping your book on the shelves after six months. But independent booksellers and wholesalers are an author’s friends. They are hand-selling books, and they are selling backlists.

“If your book is still selling after five years,” she said, “it is probably because a wholesaler cares about your book and is selling it to schools and libraries.”

Cynsational Notes

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.

Author Video: Jacqueline Woodson on Beneath a Meth Moon

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations  

Jacqueline Woodson discusses her new release, Beneath a Meth Moon (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Kelly Starling Lyons on Ellen's Broom

Kelly at Mt. Nebo Primitive Baptist Church in Eden, N.C.
By Kelly Starling Lyons
for Cynsations

Sometimes you need help realizing that a moment or experience holds the seed of a story. That’s just what happened to me at The Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.

When I told my mentor Clay Winters about researching family history and coming across a cohabitation register – a document that registered the marriages of formerly enslaved people – he said I had a picture book in there. It was up to me to find it.

I went back to my room and thought about everything I shared with Mr. Winters. I told him how during slavery some enslaved couples jumped a broom to signify their leap into life together. Though their marriages meant the world to them, their unions had no legal protection. Husbands and wives could be sold apart at any time.

What would it mean to a child, I asked myself, to have her parents’ marriage made legal so they could never be forcibly pulled apart again?

At that beautiful retreat, I wrote the first words of my new picture book, Ellen’s Broom (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012). I’m so excited that it’s now a story to share. I flip through the pages and marvel at Daniel Minter’s gorgeous illustrations. You feel Ellen’s pride as she carries her parents’ wedding broom on their march to the courthouse. You rejoice with Papa and Mama when their marriage is finally registered. You smile when they jump the broom again at Ellen’s urging. It’s a celebration of family, freedom and love.

Holding a book in my hand was a journey seven years in the making. Deciding to write the story was the first step. But I had so much more to do.

Cohabitation registers were recorded by Freedmen’s Bureau officers during Reconstruction. I had to learn about what that process was like and what it meant to freedmen, women and children to have those marriages legalized.

I started by reading Freedmen’s Bureau letters available in an online resource created by the Virginia Center for Digital History called The Valley of the Shadow. I read slave narratives and an amazing article called "Sealing the Sacred Bonds of Holy Matrimony: Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records" by African-American genealogy specialist Reginald Washington. I read the Circular which gave instructions to Freedmen’s Bureau officers on how the registry was to be done.

Then, I focused on the feelings. What emotions would Ellen, her parents and siblings experience? Was it a bittersweet moment – heartache for the past mixed with joy for the future? Where would they get the news about this new law?

I was thrilled when Dwyer & O’Grady pitched Ellen’s Broom and it was acquired by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. But the journey didn’t stop there. Nancy Paulsen and Stacey Barney helped me shape it into a real picture book manuscript.

Now, seven years after I wrote the first words, it’s ready to share. Amazing.

My launch party at Quail Ridge Books & Music was the moment when it all hit me. Surrounded by a loving audience, I talked about the research, read an excerpt, watched children make their own brooms out of pencils and signed copies of my new book.

To think Ellen’s Broom came from a historic document I saw in a North Carolina library, wow!

So grateful for Clay Winters encouraging me to find the story within and for everyone who helped bring it to life. Feeling blessed.

King Choir at Kelly's launch party

Cynsational Notes

Book Giveaway! Enter to win a copy of Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012). 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 "Ellen's Broom" in the subject line. Deadline: Feb. 13. Publisher sponsored. U.S. entries only.

A Companion Craft and Discussion Guide for Ellen's Broom, guide created by Debbie Gonzales. Learn more about Debbie's Discussion/Activity Guides.

28 Days Later: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf. In celebration of children’s authors and illustrators of color, during the twenty-eight days of Black History Month, The Brown Bookshelf profiles a different artist each day. See Day 1: Kwame Alexander. Note: The team behind The Brown Bookshelf is Paula Chase-Hyman, Varian Johnson, Don Tate, Kelly Starling Lyons, Tameka Fryer Brown, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Gwendolyn Hooks and Crystal Allen.



Virtually attend Kelly's launch party!

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