Friday, September 07, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations to Mari Mancusi on the release of Blood Forever! From the promotional copy:


Sunny and Rayne McDonald have had their lives turned upside down thanks to the Blood Coven. But when the past itself is changed, the sisters will do anything to get back what they’ve lost...

After making a deal with the devil, Rayne and her twin sister Sunny have been given the chance to go back in time—preventing that fateful night when Sunny was bitten by Magnus from ever happening. But while Sunny has been offered a vampire-free existence, she finds she doesn’t want to live without Magnus by her side. And although Rayne puts up a stoic front, she secretly wishes that vampire Jareth was back in her arms.

To reclaim their lives, Sunny and Rayne team up to figure out a way to change history for the better. Problem is, Jareth and Magnus aren’t that eager to help two unfamiliar girls who somehow know everything about their vampiric organization. Now, if the twins can’t get the boys on their side, history may spiral out of control—destroying not only the Blood Coven, but quite possibly the entire human race...

Mari--along with fellow YA fantasy authors Sophie Jordan and Tera Lynn Childs--will be launching the novel at 3 p.m. Sept. 16 at The Book Spot.

It's Complicated

Join in the latest "It's Complicated" conversation at CBC Diversity, this one focusing on book covers:

More News & Giveaways

Charlesbridge, 2012
Debut Author Interview: Natalie Dias Lorenzi on Flying the Dragon by Carmen Oliver from One Word at a Time. Peek: "As an ESL teacher and someone who has lived overseas both as a child and an adult, I knew from the start that the 'finding your place in the world' theme would be a dominant one in the story."

Character Trait Entry: Peacemaker by Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse. Peek: "Since they value the happiness of others, they're usually people-oriented and sacrificial, deferring to others in order to maintain good relations."

Villains: The Guys You Love to Hate by Ash Krafton from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "... sometimes, I root for the bad guy."

Sounds Like Teen Speak by Karen Rock. Peek: "To know our audience, we need to learn about them and here’s how."

L Is For Librarians by Professor Nana from The Goddess of YA Literature. Peek: "We need classroom libraries. We need to make sure kids have good libraries in the school, too. The public library is as essential."

The Prism of Roles: Another View of Character Identity and Narrative by Sarah Blake Johnson from Hunger Mountain. Peek: "...interactions between characters reflect their beliefs about their roles; characters view each other not with a mirror or through a window, but through a prism."

Writing Big or Going Home by Nikki Loftin from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. Peek: "If you’re writing adventure, raise the stakes sky-high – or make the reader identify so much with your main character that even a dropped ice cream cone feels like a loss of epic proportions. Go there. Go big. Or your manuscript may never go anywhere."

Organizational Tips for Your Writing Retreat by P.J. Hoover from The Writing Barn. Peek: "It’s important to have a group that will get along well. I’m not saying everyone has to be BFF with everyone else, but the retreat will include tons of bonding time, and there is no place for divas or people holding grudges."

Without Delay by Donald Maass from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "While reading a well-reviewed novel, have you ever felt both awed and bored?"

New YA Book Award: the Burt Award for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Literature "established by CODE with the generous support of philanthropist William Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation that recognizes excellence in First Nations, Métis and Inuit literature for youth and provide engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across Canada." See Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature for more information.

Interview with Flux Editor Brian Farry by Laurie Boyle Crompton from Emu's Debuts. Peek: "What I typically tell people (and this scares them) is: I know after 1 page if you can write, I know after 10 pages if I’m going to keep reading, I know by page 50 if I’m going to finish."

How to Make a Book Trailer Using Animoto by Laura Bowers. Peek: "...it’s a great website for daunted, clueless, overwhelmed people with limited funds."

Looking for more links? Try Seeing Creative and Publishing Pulse from QueryTracker.netBlog.

Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of Tris & Izzie T-shirt, love potion necklace and signed copy of Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison was Beverly in Pennsylvania, the winner of Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Simon & Schuster) was Lillian in Ohio, the winner of a Let’s Go Rambling Kit, celebrating One Day I Went Rambling by Kelly Bennett (Bright Sky Press, 2012) was Heidi in Utah, and the winner of a signed paperback edition of Flutter (Puffin, 2012) and a signed ARC of Tracing Stars (Philomel, 2012), both by Erin E. Moulton was Debbi in California.

Back-to-School Giveaway from Donna Gephart at Wild About Words. Includes: an autographed hardcover of Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen, signed paperback copies of How to Survive Middle School and As If Being 12-3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President!; a free 30-minute Skype visit with the author, 30 signed Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen bookmarks and a $25 gift card for Books-A-Million.

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Screening Room

Congratulations to Cynsations Canada reporter Lena Coakley on the release of Witchlanders (Atheneum, 2012) in paperback!



More Personally

Happy Friday! It's a catch-up week here. Please hold off on any non-critical correspondence for a few days. A wave of folks send email after holiday weekends, and it takes a while to respond to it all.

Congratulations to Austinite Sara Kocek on the sale of her debut novel, What Happened at Talmadge Hill, to Albert Whitman!

Last week's highlight was four days, three nights at the Hyatt Lost Pines.
I love how the hotel honors Texas musicians and writers (like Brian Yansky).
Water fowl were in abundance.
Wildflower season is the best time to go, but the stained glass is lovely, too.
I don't have to partake of the chocolate fountain to love the world more because it exists.
Saw this and thought of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy.
Enjoyed the rustic activities.
Final art by Ming Doyle for Eternal: Zachary's Story (Candlewick, 2013).

Personal Links


From Greg Leitich Smith

Cynsational Events

Nikki Loftin will be speaking on "Love-Inspiring Queries, Pitches, and Synopses" at 10 a.m. Sept. 8 at BookPeople in Austin, sponsored by Austin SCBWI.

Cynthia Leitich Smith will be part of the mass reading of "Buried Treasure" at 2 p.m. at the O. Henry 150th Birthday Crawl Sept. 15 at the O. Henry Museum in Austin, Texas.

Join Newbery Honor author Marion Dane Bauer for a free live teleconference at 7 p.m. EST Sept. 19. She will also be offering a free live webinar on "Point of View in Fiction" at 7 p.m. EST Sept. 26. See more information.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway: Martine Leavitt on My Book of Life by Angel

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Martine Leavitt has written several award-winning novels for young adults, including Keturah and Lord Death (Front Street, 2006, Boyds Mills, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Heck Superhero (Front Street, 2004), a finalist for the Governor General’s Award.

Martine holds an honors B.A. in English from the University of Calgary and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also is a mother of seven and grandmother of 12. She lives in Alberta, Canada. Sources: IndieBound and VCFA.

Welcome to Cynsations, Martine! What's new in your writing life?

My Book of Life by Angel (FSG, 2012) is coming out in September, and I harbor a secret wish that this book will change the world.

What are your typical sources of inspiration?

I don’t know. God. When I was writing Tom Finder (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2003) and Heck Superhero, both novels about homeless boys, I knew I would, and that I must, someday write about a homeless girl.

I knew it was unlikely that I could write that book honestly without touching on the topic of prostitution. I put this book off as long as I could, and then she wouldn’t wait any longer.

Why did you choose to write the novel in verse?

M.T. Anderson, Martine & Nancy Werlin (photo via Nancy)
I intended to write poetry for a workshop submission, but every poem was about Angel.

When I saw how the poetry and the content were informing one another, I let it be. I had to mess up the poetic form in order not to distract from the story, but the two had to be together.

My Angel does not think in a straight line, logical and linear. She is erratic and mercurial and in withdrawal, and the poetry complemented that. I wanted the punctuation to be visibly and noticeably absent, and the line breaks to serve as big punctuation when I needed it. I wanted the lack of quotation marks to indicate airlessness and voicelessness, the lack of italicized titles to mean a rejection of convention, the lack of capitals to reflect a questioning of what is proper in a proper noun. None of this would have worked as well in prose.

In addition, I needed the elevated form of poetry to reflect the beautiful souls of these girls I was writing about.

Please describe your usual writing day.

If I don’t do it at 5 a.m., it may not get done. Six of my seven children are adults now, but I pour all of my fierce maternal instincts into the unfortunate one still at home.

Also, I am a neat freak, and a faithful church-goer, which can be ever-so-brilliantly time-consuming. I can’t work in the evenings ever since my husband bought a big-screen TV and I became addicted to CNN and HGTV. I watch CNN and get sad, and then I watch HGTV and fantasize that all the world’s problems could be solved if only everyone could get a simple kitchen makeover.

Martine's family, minus the newest grandbaby (and there's another one on the way)!

Did you have an unhappy childhood?

Yes, which explains my chosen vocation. Oddly, my brothers and sisters, raised the same way I was, and by the same wonderful parents, had remarkably happy childhoods. Interpret this how you will.

What is your writing process like?

Each book has its own variation on the following theme:
  • I get an idea.
  • I am happy. This will be my best book ever.
  • I begin to write. I am still happy, but surprised that having the best idea ever does not mean the writing is easy.
  • I continue writing. Now it’s hard. I tell myself not to edit myself.
  • I continue writing. I acknowledge that this will probably not be my best book ever.
  • I continue writing. I tell myself no one but me ever has to see this book.
  • I get about a hundred pages and I figure out what the real story is. I am happy again.
  • I throw away most of the hundred pages, calling it “the experimental draft” and begin again with what I call “the first draft.”
  • I begin to write. I am still happy, but surprised that knowing the real story does not mean the writing is any easier.
  • I continue writing. Now it’s really hard. I tell myself not to edit myself.
  • I continue writing, telling myself no one has to ever see this book.
  • I finish a draft. I decide to call it “the experimental draft.”
  • I begin to write what I call “the real first draft.” I am happy. Sort of.
  • I get to the end again, keeping some of the experimental draft, but cutting and rewriting until it is beyond recognition.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat. (number of repetitions depends on book)
  • I begin to pray that I won’t die until the book is done because so much work has gone into it.
  • I despise the book.
  • I adore the book.
  • I rewrite some more.
  • I allow kids and my two first-reader friends to read the book.
  • I tinker.
  • I send it to the agent/editor.
  • I rewrite.
  • I rewrite a bit more.
  • Repeat. (number of repetitions depends on book)
  • It is published.
  • I see it in a store. It is like an abandoned child. I feel in equal parts:
I should have done better by you.

Who are you anyway?

Yes, I gave birth to you, but now it is up to others to love you.

I wish I could have edited you one more time.

Why don’t you give me money?

Who is your agent?

Brenda Bowen at Sanford J. Greenburger. She was an editor for twenty years before she went to the dark side. She is smart, perceptive, enthusiastic, understanding and well-connected.

You're a Canadian, yes?

I am. I am also a U.S. citizen. I am immensely proud of both of my countries and refuse to observe the 49th parallel.

How would you describe yourself as a writer?

I am a fantasy writer. I also write contemporary realism, magic realism and, most recently, an animal story. I do not observe genre borders very well, either.

As a mother of seven children, how did you balance your writing career and motherhood?

Badly. That’s the short answer. The long answer is that for many years it was a juggling act of great consequence and often I dropped balls and flaming batons.

One evidence of the existence of God is that none of my children grew up to be axe murderers, although some are young and still have time.

My family is and has always been the most important part of my life, but I always knew I could be a better mother if I could get away and battle dragons of one sort or another and be back by the end of nap time. Giving up my writing would not have made me a better mother. Not having children would have taken away any reason I had to write.

I wasn’t the best at balancing, but I did need them both and love them both and so I had to neglect one or the other of them by turns.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Read every day. Write every day, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Chip away, chip away, chip away. Don’t give up.

Do not even mildly concern yourself with money, what’s popular, what’s selling, what you think kids like, and especially do not concern yourself with reviews or awards.

Write the story for the child in you, and in the most beautiful and imaginative way you can. You will have done your job and pleased God.

Do you have another job?

Yes, I am on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier in Vermont. It is a short-residency MFA program that has a remarkable reputation for turning out some of the best writers for children and young adults in the business. It is Brigadoon for writers for young people.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of five copies of My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt (FSG, 2012). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada).

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Career Builder & Giveaway: Lupe Ruiz-Flores

Betty Boop & Lupe
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Author Lupe Ruiz-Flores was once an aerospace engineering technician. In her heart, however, she was always a writer. She has worked as a staff writer for a local newspaper and has ghost written short stories for a national magazine. Some of her poetry has been published in anthologies as well.

Lupe's books include Lupita’s Papalote (kite), illustrated by Pauline Rodriguez Howard (2002); The Woodcutter’s Gift, illustrated by Elaine Jerome (2007); The Battle of the Snow Cones, illustrated by Alisha Gambino (2010); Alicia’s Fruity Drinks, illustrated by Laura Lacámara (2012); Salsa is Not Just for Eating, illustrated by Robert Casilla (Fall 2012); and Lupita and El día de los Niños, illustrated by Gabhor Utomo (Spring 2013). These bilingual picture books are all published by Piñata Books, Arte Público Press.

She’s twice been a featured author at the Texas Book Festival in Austin. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Society of Latino & Hispanic Writers of San Antonio and The Writers’ League of Texas.

At present, she is the newsletter editor for the Southwest Texas SCBWI chapter’s online newsletter. A native Texan, she has also lived in Thailand and Japan. She loves to travel and has visited Italy twice. She is presently working on a middle-grade novel.

What memories of your debut author experience stand out?

I remember walking into a Barnes & Noble for my first book signing and seeing a poster of myself with my book at the entrance of the store. I almost cried. I never thought it would happen. It was a very emotional time for me, especially when my family and friends showed up to support me.

If you could offer advice to the new voice you once were, what would you say?

My advice would be to take a leap of faith, which is what I did. In my heart, I had always wanted to write, but life happened and I almost gave up that dream.

When the opportunity presented itself years later, I had a lot of doubts. Would anyone be interested in what I wrote? Why did I think I could be a writer?

The doubts started fading when I entered writing contests to test the waters. To my amazement, I placed in a few of the contests. That gave me the self confidence I needed.

How do you define success?

New release
To me, success is having the freedom to do something in life that you really enjoy and letting others share in that joy. Do you have a publishing strategy? If so, how has it worked and/or changed over time? If not, why not? And how has that worked for you?

Since I do not have a background in creative writing, I have immersed myself in the writing process. I joined SCBWI and other professional writers’ organizations. I attend writing workshops, conferences, and have joined critique groups, both local and online.

I buy books on writing and subscribe to writing magazines to keep abreast of what’s happening in the publishing world. I research publishing houses before I send anything out. I follow their guidelines.

To date, three of my middle-grade novels are making the rounds. I have had four bilingual picture books published and two more coming out soon. That is truly amazing to me.

Would you describe your career as a hike up a mountain, a winding road, a path of hills and valleys or hop-scotching from rock to rock across the rapids? Why?

I would describe my writing career as a winding road full of surprises at every turn.

When I first started, I wasn’t aware of all that goes with being an author, i.e., the invitations for school visits, speaking engagements at writers’ clubs, national writers’ conferences, meeting famous authors, traveling quite often, and making friends with peers who are just as passionate about writing as you are. It’s a whole new world out there and I love it!

How have you grown as a writer? What skills have you seen improve over time? What did you do to reach new levels? What are areas that still flummox you at times?

I have learned that first drafts are just that—first drafts. "Revision" is my middle name now.

When I write, I want my story to be an experience for the reader. I want my books to have “spirit,” and for the reader to “feel” something.

Skills where I have improved: learning when to cut words, scenes, or dialogue if they don’t move the story forward. Pacing a story so that it flows well.

Reach new levels: I started taking myself seriously as a writer and being professional about it.

Flummox: That there aren’t enough houses publishing multicultural books.

Have you ever made an affirmative decision to alter your creative focus? What inspired this decision? What were the challenges?

I walked into a poetry class at a local bookstore by mistake. I almost walked out, but the instructor encouraged me to stay. I started reading and writing poetry and found out I really enjoyed it. I even had some poems published in an anthology. That freed my creative juices even more.

How have you built an audience over time?

I created my own web site and blog to build an audience. I also do many school visits and presentations throughout the year all across Texas. I do interviews for other blogs. I attend TLA and ESC regional events to meet librarians and other educators.

Did you ever consider giving up? What happened? What kept you going?

No. Once I started, I kept going. The way it happened was a total surprise to me. When I wrote my first picture book, I had no idea where to send it or how. I saw an ad in the paper for a one-day writing seminar at a local university. I went. It changed my life. The keynote speaker mentioned a publisher and guidelines. She gave details on the submission process. I sent in my story. About three months later, I had a contract. I was shocked!

How have you handled being a player in the world of youth literature? Fans, reviews, jealousies, acclaim, etc.

I absolutely am in awe of authors who write youth literature. I am a fan. There is no jealousy.

I know how hard it is to get published, so I admire the authors and their work. We are all in this business to support one another.

Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you should have done differently? What and why?

Regrets? I consider myself a late bloomer so maybe my one regret is that I should have started earlier. But maybe I wouldn’t have been ready. Things happen for a reason, I believe.

The time is right for me now.

What advice do you have for the debut authors of 2012?

Believe in yourself. Nurture yourself spiritually and as a writer. Connect with other writers. Find out what works for you and write.

Take advantage of the opportunities that are out there, i.e., SCBWI, The Writers’ League of Texas, and other professional writers’ organizations.

It is never too late to realize your dream. Never give up.

What do you want to say to established mid-list authors about staying in the game?

Do not give up. You’ve made it thus far. Keep going. We need your books.

Lupe and Mark Twain

What do you want to say to those who call themselves "one-book wonders" or those who feel the market has left them behind?

You are not a one-book wonder and the market has not left you. Maybe you need to write in another genre.

I started out writing non-fiction for a magazine, then poetry, then picture books, and now I’m focusing on middle-grade. It’s a growing process.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your short- and long-term goals? Your strategies for achieving them?

I would like to have my middle-grade novels published. My strategy is to attend writers’ conferences and meet editors and agents and be able to submit my work. Hopefully, some editor will like my novels and then who knows?

What's the secret of your success?

Passion. If your heart is not in it, I don’t think you can succeed. You have to love what you do.

Cynsational Notes

Visit Lupe's blog! Check out a radio interview with Lupe from classical 91.7, Houston Public Radio!
See also an alternate link for that interview.

The Career Builders series offers insights from children's-YA authors who written and published books for a decade or more. The focus includes their approach to both the craft of writing and navigating the ever-changing business landscape of trade publishing.

Cynsational Giveaway


U.S. readers! Enter to win the following prize package:
  • a signed copy of Lupe's bilingual picture book, Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las aguas frescas de Alicia
  • a small “Hope” note pad
  • a Charlotte Bronte journal 
  • a business card holder
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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Book Trailer & Giveaway: Never Enough by Denise Jaden

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Never Enough by Denise Jaden (Simon Pulse, 2012) and then enter to win a copy below. From the promotional copy:

Loann’s always wanted to be popular and pretty like her sister, Claire. So when Claire’s ex-boyfriend starts flirting with her, Loann is willing to do whatever it takes to feel special…even if that means betraying her sister.

But as Loann slips inside Claire’s world, she discovers that everything is not as it seems. Claire’s quest for perfection is all-consuming, and comes at a dangerous price. 

As Claire increasingly withdraws from friends and family, Loann struggles to understand her and make amends. Can she heal their relationship—and her sister—before it’s too late?



Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Never Enough by Denise Jaden (Simon Pulse, 2012) and a couple of signed bookmarks. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S./Canada.

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