Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guest Post: Mike Mullin on Writing on the Run (Actually, I Usually Walk)

By Mike Mullin
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I’m a nomadic writer. I figure I put over 400 miles on my boots while writing my second novel, Ashen Winter (Tanglewood, 2012).


A blogger once asked me, “Where do you write?”

“At my laptop,” I answered, somewhat flippantly.

But flippant or not, it’s true. I will gladly plop down wherever I happen to be and try to write.

My normal routine is this: I sit down at home in the morning and try to write 500 words. If I get my first 500 words, I reward myself with a walk—usually to the library eight blocks from my house. Here it is:


Gorgeous, no? And you haven’t seen the best part yet. Inside, they have hundreds of tables that seem custom-designed for nomadic writers. They even have little laptop plugs built into the reading lamps. Check it out:


I sit at one of these lovely tables and try to write another 500 words.

If I reach that goal, I get coffee—or, if it’s gotten late, lunch. One of the best coffee shops in town is six blocks from the library.


Much of Ashen Winter was written there. (Yes, Mr. Scalzi, real writers do work in coffee shops, whatever your opinion of the practice. You enjoy your quiet room at home; I’ll enjoy the pleasant hubbub at Mo’Joes. Okay? Good.) This pattern of walk a bit, write a bit may go on all day, until—on a good day—I’ve written 2,500 or more words.

I think of the walks as lubrication for my brain. (Yes, I know alcohol is the traditional brain lubricant, but alcohol just makes me sillier than normal, not more productive or creative. And does the world really need another alcoholic writer? I think not.) Very often, when I arrive at my physical destination, I’ve arrived at a mental destination, too, and know exactly what to write next.

Sometimes the inspiration is more direct. My walk to the library takes me under this tree at the President Benjamin Harrison Home:


You see how it overhangs the sidewalk? Here’s a close-up of the relevant branch:


This got me to thinking: If that were a real fence, I could easily cross it by climbing along that limb. (Thinking about ways to break into places is an old hobby. As a teen I wandered the streets of Broad Ripple in the middle of the night, breaking into schools, warehouses, and abandoned buildings, usually by climbing a downspout or nearby tree to reach the roof or an open window).

Occasionally I took friends along, but only if they’d agree to my rules:

New Voice: Mike Mullin on Ashfall
1) you can’t vandalize anything,

2) you can’t steal anything, and

3) you never break into anyplace that might be occupied.

The joy of it was getting in—not anything I did once inside.)

Anyway, that train of thought switched onto another track—if there were four feet of snow on the ground, as in Ashen Winter, that branch would enable a clever teen named, say, Alex, to exit from a beaten path without leaving any tracks. Thus, chapters 19 and 20 of Ashen Winter were conceived.

So that’s a bit more than you probably ever wanted to know about my writing process.

What about you? Are you a nomadic writer or a sedentary one? Do you love or despise coffee-shop writers?

Let me know in the comments, please.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations to P.J. Hoover on the gorgeous cover for Solstice (Tor, June 2013). From the promotional copy:

Piper’s world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.

An imaginative melding of mythology and dystopia, Solstice is the first YA novel by talented newcomer P. J. Hoover.

More News & Giveaways

Five Questions for Louise Erdrich by Martha V. Parravano from The Horn Book. Peek: "The migration across Minnesota into the Dakotas, and the warmth of family life, is something that these books have in common with the Little House series. I am happy that they are being read together, as the Native experience of early western settlement is so often missing in middle-grade history classes."

RIF Releases Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Multicultural Book Collection from Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "This year's collection will be accompanied by a set of free downloadable activities for parents and educators to engage children in literacy development, based on the Common Core Standards adopted by 45 states in the nation (U.S.)."

Character Trait Description: Just by Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse.  Peek: "...believing in or pursuing what is morally right or good."

Live and In Person by Jennifer R. Hubbard from writerjenn. Peek: "Multi-author events have come to be my favorite. In fact, at the launch party for my second book--which was technically a solo event--I invited any authors who were able to attend to display and sign their books, too." Note: inspired by A Love Note (& Battle Strategies for Author-Speakers).

Online Writing Resources by Danyelle Leafty from Querytracker.netBlog. Peek: "...even though I have a hard time sitting down with writing books, I have a few online resources that I would have a hard time doing without."  Note: Thanks for the shout out to Cynsations!

The Elusive Work-Life Balance by Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. Peek: "I think I'm better at drawing lines now--in fact, when an agent asked if an author could deliver a manuscript the day before my wedding, I told him 'that's fine, but I won't be editing it!' and life went on (and instead the author delivered early and I edited it two weeks before my wedding)."

National Hispanic Heritage Month and Dia by Jeanette Larson from ALSC Blog. Peek: "We often focus a lot of attention on picture books for use with preschool children but I recently read two books by Alma Flor Ada that would be great to share with older children...."

Author Insight: Pieces of Publishing from Wastepaper Prose. Insights from various authors, including Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: "What's the one thing you'd like the world to know about publishing?"

Networking Can Give You an Edge by Talia Vance from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. Peek: "...someone tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned around to come face to face with none other than (Flux editor) Brian Farrey. I nearly fell over."

The Art of the Complete Rewrite by Jane Lebak from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "Your novel deserves better than that. Give it a level foundation. Start with a blank document."

Giving Yourself Permission by Kirsten Hubbard from YA Highway. Peek: "Truly, in an industry like this, it's so, so important to be kind to yourself. That means giving yourself permission to struggle, to mourn, to take your time, to lean on others, and much more.

My Secret Marketing Weapon and Some Other Marketing Tips from Kimberly Sabatini. Peek: "I thought about auditioning. It would have been a fabulous opportunity. I also realized it would likely cause my premature death."

Malinda Lo on the Making of a Book Trailer for Adaptation from Shelf Elf. Peek: "I thought it would not only look gorgeous on film, it would look creepy, and I wanted to make sure the book’s creepy vibe came through."

Talkin' About Bessie by Nikki Grimes from The Poetry Zone. Peek: "Some books are harder to birth than others, and Bessie was a book-baby in breach."

Kathy Dawson Gets Imprint at Penguin by Sally Lodge from Publishers Weekly. Peek: 'Dawson emphasizes that offerings from Kathy Dawson Books will span – and even bend – genres. “I tend to do genre books for non-genre readers,' she says."

Query Roundup: An Agent's Responses and What They Mean by Suzie Townsend from Confessions. Peek: "...if you have a book that could be called "not commercial" you have an uphill road in front of you. Not only do you have to write an awesome query, but this is where comp titles are going to be so important." Source: QueryTracker.netBlog.

Cynsational Giveaways
The winner of  a signed copy of Lupe Ruiz-Flores' bilingual picture book, Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las aguas frescas de Alicia; a small “Hope” note pad; a Charlotte Bronte journal; and a business card holder (PB) has been contacted--check your email!

The winner of three picture books (and one F&G) by Pat Mora is Whitney in Louisiana, the winners of My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt are Alyson in Alberta, Kathy in Ohio, Jess in Washington, D.C., and Ginger in New Hampshire, and the winner of Never Enough by Denise Jaden is Candace in Virginia.

Don't miss the Great Library Giveaway of 2012 at From the Mixed-Up Files...of Middle Grade Authors. Nomination deadline: 11:59 p.m. PST Oct.16.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Guess what! As of last Wednesday, I've been tweeting @CynLeitichSmith for three years, and it's possibly my favorite form of social networking, though it would serve me less well if it weren't augmented by Cynsations. As for my "real space" activities:

Authors Margaret Peterson Haddix & Lisa McMann visit BookPeople in Austin.
Last weekend, I participated in a multi-author reading at the O. Henry Museum.
Participants include authors Lori Aurelia Williams and Ruth Pennebaker.
Texas Book Festival's Clay Smith and author Sarah Bird.
O.Henry's fedora
Was he a chess player? Don't know, but these kids were having fun.
Music was a highlight of the festivities.
 Even More Personally

My go-to Chinese restaurant has closed. Fortunately, there's another location.
Flying monkeys scare me. What scares you?

Personal Links
Mari Mancusi on reinforcing reading

About Greg Leitich Smith

Fiction Books at Their Best by Holly E. Newton from Meridian Magazine. Peek: "Chronal Engine, by Greg Leitich Smith, and sprinkled with illustrated drawings by Blake Henry, is an exciting adventure..."

Cynsational Events

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 11 a.m. Sept. 22 at Cedar Park Public Library and at 3 p.m. Oct. 6 at Freeport Library, a branch of the Brazoria County Library System.

Conversation with Kirsten Cappy of Curious City: An Event for Published Authors from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 7 at The Writing Barn in Austin. "To RSVP, please send an email to writingbarn@gmail.com with 'Cappy Class' as the subject line by Oct. 1."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Voice: Jeanne Ryan on Nerve

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Jeanne Ryan is the first-time author of Nerve (Dial, Sept. 12, 2012)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

When Vee is picked to be a player in Nerve, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. 

At first it’s exhilarating–Vee and Ian’s fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. 

But the game takes a twisted turn. Suddenly they’re playing all or nothing, and the prize may be their lives.

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach "edgy" behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

This issue came up all the time in Nerve. Given that it’s based on an online game of dares that are supposed to draw in a large audience, the dares themselves had to be extreme enough to entice viewers and promote an uber-contemporary vibe.

At the same time, I wanted my main character, Vee, to be a “normal”, relatable girl. The way I approached this was to fashion the dares with the mindset of a cynical game designer, but then show Vee’s reaction to performing each dare, revealing her mortification, trepidation and concern about the unsuspecting people who might be impacted by her actions.

This meant I often had to do battle between my innate desire to make things right with the world (I have a degree in social welfare) and wanting to ensure that the story felt authentic.

For example, one of the dares has Vee posing as a prostitute until she can get a high enough offer from a potential client. “Pretty Woman” notwithstanding, there’s nothing light or funny about such a situation and the plight of girls caught in that lifestyle.

Yet it’s the type of dare a cynical group of game designers might dream up if their motivation was luring viewers who’d pay to watch.

I tried to portray Vee’s experience during that dare as starting out with false bravado, which wilts as she encounters danger and rejection. At times, she empathizes with the women on the street who aren’t there as part of a game. Since this is a fast-paced thriller, I couldn’t delve too deeply into these issues, but they are brought up to provide some measure of balance.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn't address these factors? Why or why not?

Technology plays a huge role in this story in both the day-to-day interactions between the characters and in the mechanisms of the game itself. The dares in Nerve are captured on video via phones by both players and “Watchers,” and then broadcast on the net to be viewed on computers and phones.


Since I didn’t want to date the book, I tried to keep the technology as generic as possible, describing it more by function than name.

In the case where I did need a name for a ubiquitous social networking site, I called it ThisIsMe, which hopefully gets across the idea.

When it came to the phones, which are so integral in this book, I went with the highest common denominator, assuming that smart phones would become more the norm than they are now. So much so, that in the near future, they won’t be considered so “smart.” (In fact, there’s only one line where I refer to them as “smart” and that’s kind of a joke.)

The story simply presents kids whipping out their phones to take video and use the Internet. Another thing I was careful to do was say “phones” rather than “cell phones” since for most teens, this differentiation isn’t necessary, and, in my opinion, would already sound dated.

Of course, there’s no way to predict what’ll be available even a few years from now; nor would I since this is not sci-fi. So, like pretty much all contemporary fiction, aspects of this story will eventually become dated. All I could do was try to delay that as long as possible.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Guest Post: Sarah Lynn on Major Revisions


By Sarah Lynn 
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Revision.

It’s a struggle to see the manuscript through different eyes, to know where to cut, where to add, when to scrap the whole thing. There’s revision on your own, revision with the help of critique partners, and revision with an editor. I’m a pleaser, so when an editor makes an editing suggestion I pretty much jump to complete it. This has worked for me in some situations, and not in others.

Sometimes I’ve been so eager to make a sale or please the editor that I lose sight of my own vision and in so doing my story loses its spark, its originality, its voice, its momentum, etc. But sometimes an editor’s comments can change my entire perspective on a manuscript.

Inspiration!
The writing of 1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom—A Counting Book, illustrated by Daniel Griffo, is an example of the latter.

This original manuscript was titled “If Numbers Were Racetracks.” I had this whole vision that the illustrations would show children actually driving on racetracks shaped like numbers.

I got the idea when I was trying to teach my oldest son how to write his numbers. Like many five-year old boys, he avoided holding that pencil at all costs. So I made those vroom, vroom car noises little kids love and told him we’d play an imaginary game. I pretended the pencil was actually a car, and the pencil was drawing its own track (shaped like numbers).

He couldn’t wait for his turn. He picked up the pencil right away. Inspiration struck. If my son was more likely to practice writing letters this way, then maybe others would be, too.

The original text was very different than what is published today. This is an example of the benefits of being willing to revise drastically. The original text was slow and lilting. Here’s a taste.

If numbers were racetracks,

I’d rev my engines, Vroom, vroom,

Driving so fast

The crowds and cars would blur together.

Then I’d slam on the brakes

With a screech.

For number one.

If numbers were racetracks,

I’d turn my wheel hard,

Skidding down for a quick loop

And out

Past the pit stop

And my crew

For number two.

And so on…

Get the picture? Does this sound like a racecar book? It did to me. The manuscript was rejected multiple times, but when my editor at Marshall Cavendish (now Amazon Children’s Publishing) read it, she told me it had potential, but that it wasn’t fast paced enough for a racecar book.

She had a point. She also felt that it would be too complex for the racetracks to actually be shaped like numbers. So, I revised. And revised. And revised. The ending text is more snappy and fast-paced. Here is a taste of the end result.

Lap One!

Checkered flag.

Seat belt strapped!

Helmet snapped!

Screeching down the lane!

Va-va-vroom!

Lap Two!

Crouch down low.

Give it gas.

Try to pass,

zooming for the lead!

Va-va-vroom!

And so on…

So much more engaging, right?

Sarah's older boys creating a "road" for matchbox cars.
And fun to read-aloud. When I read this story at school visits or signings, I bring a bunch of matchbox cars and pass them out. I let the kids hold them in their hands, and they can “drive” the shape of the letter in the air as we say together, “Va-Va-Vroom!”

This is a good example of how an editor’s vision can really guide our work. The cost of revision is minimal. In this day and age, it’s simple to save each version as a separate file on my computer.

If I make a revision that doesn’t work, all I’m out is the time it took to rewrite it.

I also know that editors see the big picture. They have to consider the quality of the work, what it will compete with on the market, whether it will appeal to its intended audience, whether it’s different enough from what already exists, and a zillion other factors that wouldn’t occur to me.

So I say, “revise!” Take time to consider an editor’s suggestions, no matter how drastic. But in the end, don’t lose sight of your own vision either.

Cynsational Notes

Sarah Lynn is the author of (1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom! A Counting Book (Amazon, 2012)(formerly Marshall Cavendish) and Tip-Tap Pop (Marshall Cavendish, 2010).


Cynsational Screening Room

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Voice: Jay Kristoff on Stormdancer

U.S. cover
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Jay Kristoff is the first-time author of Stormdancer (Thomas Dunne/St Martin’s Press (USA)/Tor UK (United Kingdom), 2012). From the promotional copy:

The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.

A Dying Land

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. 

The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

An Impossible Quest

The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A Hidden Gift


Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. 

Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. 

Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view–first, second, third (or some alternating combination)–featured in your novel? What considerations came into play? Did you try the story from a different point of view at some point? If so, what made you change your mind?

Stormdancer is told in third person. I’m going to speak some hard truths here to our friend First Person Point of View (First Person PoV) here, if you’ll indulge me:

JK: *turns to First Person PoV, who is watching across the table, eyes already welling with tears*

“First, you’re an awesome person. Really. I have so much fun when we’re together. You’re great for establishing character voice very quickly. You pull readers into the heads of my protagonist like a super-magnet. And you’re great with the kids. But honestly? I find you kinda limiting.”

*puts up hand to cut off First’s indignant protest*

“Look, I’m writing a fantasy story here, First. I mean, you totally work in more intimate settings, but over the course of this series, I’m gonna have armies clashing and factions fighting and imperiums being played for and lost. Lots of different agendas and interests at play, lots of characters colliding and plotting and fighting. You’re just not going to work.

“Can you imagine the Lord of the Rings told only from Frodo’s perspective? Would it have the same feel? Would it be as big?

“If I use you, First, the only way for my readers to know what other characters are thinking or why they behaved the way they did is to have those characters tell my protagonist. If I use you, really important scenes that happen 'off-screen' have to be imparted verbally to my hero later on.

"Can you imagine Aragorn sitting down and telling Frodo about the Seige of Gondor after the fact? Would you have cried when Boromir died if Merry and Pippin told Frodo about it at the end of the story?

“Besides, I’m a 30-something year old man, First.

"My protagonist is a sixteen-year-old girl. I mean, it’s always a challenge for authors to create convincing characters. Writing a convincing sixteen-year-old girl in theory isn’t any harder than writing a convincing 500-year-old vampire, or a robot monkey ninja who hunts pirates in space.

Samwise AKA the muse
"Nobody wants to read a book about me sitting on the couch playing Guitar Hero, so in theory, I’m always going to be writing a character who’s different to me. But a thirty-something dude actually writing inside the head of a sixteen year old girl?

"That takes more courage than I’m currently in possession of, First. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying my wheelbarrow isn’t that big yet.

“Besides, you’re a totally popular point of view. In fact, it seems like most books on the shelves these days, particularly in the YA section, are written in you. I want to be different. Lots of steampunk written in Victorian England. Lots of love triangles and flawless heroines. Lots of pretty skinny white girls on the cover. I don’t want any of that. It’s been done and done well. Time to roll on.

“It’s not you, First, it’s me. You deserve someone better. Someone who will love you for who you are. Now, you go out and find that special someone and hold onto them with all you’ve got.

“Hey, you don’t happen to have Third’s phone number, do you?”

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

World building is ultra-important in fantasy for me. In a good fantasy, the world should feel like an actual character. It’s just as important as your protagonist, and it should live and breathe and grow just like they do.

There should be rules laid down for the reader to follow – you need to strike a super happy fun time balance between giving the reader enough information to understand how everything works and killing them stone dead with five-page descriptions of every meal. But better too much than too little – you can always cut it later.

The most important part of any world, of course, are the people living in it. You need to question them constantly. Sit them down in your head for an interview. How does your society work? Who runs it? Who makes the rules? Who enforces those rules? Are people happy with the status quo? What is the glue that holds society together - grand notions like faith and honor, or big guys with bigger guns?

What do people believe? What do they do in their free time? Do they even have any? What does the average person in the street aspire to? What stops them just sitting down in the dust and dying?

How does the society feed itself? How do their transportation systems work? Do people own their own land? Are there slaves? Are there castes? Do people draw lines of division in terms of race? Faith? Blood/birth? Ancestry? Power? Who is the “other”? (Every society has one).

Is it peace time? Has it always been? How did the current people running the show get into power? Who wants to knock them off?

There are thousands of these questions, and a good fantasy writer will know the answer to them all.

A good place to start when building a fantasy world is an existing system. I based the world in Stormdancer on the Samurai age in Japan, then added a combustion-based technology and rolled on from there. George R.R. Martin used medieval England during the time of the War of the Roses, added some subtle magic and some dragons. Hey, presto.

Of course, if you base your world on an existing system (or one that used to exist), you don’t have to use everything. Use history like a salad bar: take what you want and leave the rest. And of course you don’t need to write down every little detail – you’ll probably make your reader envy the dead if you do. But you, the author, need to know how this stuff works, even if you don’t tell anyone else.

Knowing how things work will keep your world and characters consistent. This knowledge is the concrete upon which every additional structure you build in your novel will stand. If the structure is thin or unfinished or put together with no real plan, sooner or later the things you build on top of it are going to fall over. And everyone will die.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Post: Leda Schubert on Monsieur Marceau: Artist Without Words

Copyright Gerard DuBois, Roaring Brook Press.
By Leda Schubert
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

"Look at this man.
"He climbs invisible stairs—"

A very long time ago—so, so long—I took a class from a Swiss mime, Jan Kessler. This was my senior year in college, when I decided to loosen the yoke of my heavily academic load with a couple of courses that had amazing reputations. (The other was a class in Persian art. Fabulous.) Sadly, I remember very little about either class, but both were gifts of different kinds, opening worlds.

Of course I knew of the great Marcel Marceau, and the mime class only intensified my appreciation of his work. After Marceau died, my agent, Steven Chudney, asked if I had ever entertained the idea of writing about him. No. I knew very little about his life.

It’s almost impossible to take a suggestion from another person about what to write. Ninety-nine percent of the time, those ideas belong to that person. But the thought wormed its way into my brain cells. I started looking stuff up and began learning surprising information M. Marceau. Example: I had no idea he was Jewish.

Ah, research. A lot of writers love research.

Why? Because it postpones the act of writing. So I amassed interviews, videos, books about mime and its history, necessary information about World War II (e.g. the evacuation of Strasbourg), programs from world tours, newspaper articles about his performances, and books by M. Marceau himself. I thought about him all the time. If I don’t have that passion, I can’t put words on paper.

Finally, I wrote, and as the story took shape, I wondered—was I nuts? How would a picture book about this particular mime even be possible? There were no actual lions, no stairs, no other people on that stage. Just one very recognizable man in a spotlight.

How could such imagination be represented on the page?

Copyright Gerard DuBois, Roaring Brook Press.
Answer: if Neal Porter is your editor, he will find Gerard DuBois, and you will be extraordinarily lucky. Your jaw will drop in amazement when you see proofs. You will run around showing them to everyone you know—even your dogs.

And now, almost four and a half years since Neal bought the manuscript, I am dancing about.

Wordlessly.

After the book was done, I called someone I had met but didn’t know: Rob Mermin, founder of Circus Smirkus, a home-grown traveling extravaganza that “gives kids a chance to run away and join the circus–with their parents' blessings.”

Rob actually studied with Marceau, and I wanted to see what he would say. I was incredibly nervous. What if I had gotten everything wrong—not the facts, but the person himself?

When Rob liked it, I was a happy bunny. And Rob also suggested some mime exercises that readers could do, now included in the afterword.

The photo of M. Marceau at the end has particular resonance for me. But you’ll have to visit my website to find out why.

What a great artist Marceau was! I hope the book conveys a little of his magic, and I hope you like it.

Leda with Pogo and Pippa
Cynsational Notes

In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews cheers: “Don’t turn the pages too quickly; rather stop and feel the joie de vivre with which the master filled people of all ages all over the world. An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.”

In a starred review, School Library Journal raves: “It is fitting that this superb picture-book biography is short on words and long on visuals. The spare text marvelously captures the essence of the artist, depicting a man whose choice to be silent was born of an awareness of the damages of war.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Guest Post: Elizabeth O. Dulemba on Lula's Brew: What's Your Reading Flavor?

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

Hardcover, paperback, ebook, app. Today we have more ways to enjoy our books than ever. And I’ve explored them all with my picture book Lula's Brew.

The book began its life as a picture dummy that, despite winning the Grand Prize in the SmartWriters competition way back in 2007, didn’t sell to a major publishing house. I tucked it away in a drawer until the invention of the iPhone app in 2009. Something told me they were going to be big and Lula was the perfect fit - short, funny, the sketches were finished.

I pulled her out, dusted her off, and turned her into an app - just in time for Halloween.

Back then, Lula's Brew was one of the very first picture book apps, so she got fantastic exposure. She was featured in the iTunes store for months, as well as on the popular blog “Moms With Apps.” When the iPad came out, I adapted her for that device too and she ended up being downloaded over 10,000 times - pretty good!

I had created something new and people wanted to know about it. I sold articles to trade magazines, did some very high tech school visits, and spoke at various conferences about creating apps.

But as the app world became overrun, and iTunes’ search engine failed to improve, I began to have my doubts about apps as a viable money-making option for picture books. I turned her into an ebook for the Nook and Kindle just to be sure. But again, the chance of a reader stumbling across her online was nil.

And all the while, Lula fans were emailing me asking, “Where can I buy the book?”

Copyright Elizabeth O. Dulemba; used with permission.
In this world of reading transition, the need for picture books as physical page-turners has not diminished. My little cousins use my iPad to play games - for them, it’s not a place to read. A book is where they do that - still. And I don’t see that changing.

I considered self publishing. But I am well aware of the work involved in becoming a publisher and distributor - it is no small task. And besides the upfront cost of creating a quality print picture book, when would I ever have time to write and illustrate again?


So when I read in Shelf Awareness (July 26, 2012) that a little publisher out of California, Xist Publishing, was taking picture ebooks and turning them into apps, I got in touch immediately. They flipped over Lula's Brew and now, finally, she is a book. '

She’ll be physically available in early October with pre-order sales for dedicated/signed copies open now  through my local independent children’s bookstore, Little Shop of Stories (404.373.6300).

So, what’s your flavor? ebook or app - I say Lula's Brew - the book!

Cynsational Notes

Elizabeth O. Dulemba on Promoting a Book App from Cynsations. See more information on Lula's Brew, including a word find puzzle, coloring pages, and computer wallpaper.

Copyright Elizabeth O. Dulemba; used with permission.

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