Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Giveaway: Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Happy Halloween! Enter to win one of two signed copies of Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi (Random House, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Ginny has big plans for eighth grade. She's going to try out for cheerleading, join Virtual Vampire Vixens, and maybe even fall in love. 

But middle school is more of a roller-coaster ride than Ginny could have ever predicted. 

Filled with Post-its, journal entries, grocery lists, hand-drawn comic strips, report cards, IMs, notes, and more, Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick is the sometimes poignant, often hilarious, always relatable look at a year in the life of one girl, told entirely through her stuff.

Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

Cynsational Notes

In Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick, Ginnny's book reading includes Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick/Walker Books, 2007, 2008)--see below--and Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2001). Gasp! Swoon!

Peeking at the cover of Eternal in the book.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Texas Book Festival Photo Report

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

This week's highlight was the Texas Book Festival in Austin.

Bethany Hegedus hosted the Children's-YA author/moderator party at The Writing Barn.
Stephanie Pellegrin, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Nikki Loftin. Photo by Bethany Hegedus.
Donna Bowman Bratton & Shelli Cornelison
Kelly Bennett, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Liz Mertz, Liz Garton Scanlon
E. Kristin Anderson
Cinda Williams Chima & Katie Bartow of Mundie Moms
Shelley Ann Jackson & Professor Sharon O'Neal of Texas State University

Vanessa Lee & Sean Petrie
Micheal Grant & Paolo Bacigalupi
Winifred Conkling & Greg Leitich Smith
Amy Rose Capetta & Salima Alikhan
Roasting marshmallows around the fire.
Greg with Gary Schmidt at Anita Silvey's presentation.
Greg was a featured author for Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2012).
Penguin sales rep Jill Bailey
Kelly Bennett in action
Phil Yates
Rebecca Stead & Margo Rabb
Chris Barton & Jennifer Ziegler
Kinky Friedman, Elaine Scott & Jo Whittemore
Back row: R. Gregory Christie, E. Kristin Anderson, Don Tate, Roger (Jo Whittemore's husbanf), Liz Garton Scanlon; front row: Greg Leitich Smith, Jen Bigheart, K.A. Holt, Sean Petrie

Amy Rose Capetta & Samantha Clark
Rob Scotton & Dave Wilson (Nikki Loftin's husband)
Jenny Han
Andrea Cremer, Jennifer Ziegler, Shana Burg
Bethany Hegedus & Jon Sczieska
Roland Smith at The Driskill Hotel
And there are a few more photos to come!

Cynsational Notes

Texas Book Festival Photos by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog and Texas Book Festival Report by Don Tate. See also It's a Wrap: Austin Comic Con 2012 by P.J. Hoover from Roots In Myth.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Voice: Kimberly Sabatini on Touching the Surface

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Kimberly Sabatini is the first-time author of Touching the Surface (Simon Pulse, 2012)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

Life-altering mistakes are meant to alter lives...

When Elliot dies for the third time, she knows this is her last shot. There are no fourth-timers in this afterlife, so one more chance is all she has to get things right. 

But before she can move on to her next life, Elliot will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed...and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the mistakes of her past, Elliot must earn the forgiveness of her best friend and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves...even if it means losing them both forever.

Who has been your most influential writing/art teacher or mentor and why?

I thought I would talk a little bit about my sixth grade teacher. I had a series of hardworking, caring English teachers over the course of my childhood. Seriously, they were all great, but I thought I would tell you about the one teacher I hated.

I was scared to death of Mrs. Mignault. At the time, I was convinced that she was Satan’s handmaiden. Perhaps this was just an unfortunate side effect of spending too many years in Catholic school. Or maybe it was because she was strict and grouchy most of the time. Or perhaps it was because I adored my fifth grade teacher more than I’d ever loved a teacher before.  I’m sure the truth is a jumble of all those things, but for the record, I was not optimistic about the sixth grade.

I remember the English class where Mrs. Mignault had written a poem on the black board. With her thin lips pressed tightly together, she made us copy it down and commit it to memory—groan.

The poem was "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, May 1915. Mrs. Mignault began to recite the words. She walked us through each line. And we were quiet. We were listening.

 Instead of yelling at us, she was talking to us. It was the moment I realized she had poetry in her soul. The subject and the words moved her—she felt them deeply. It was about war and loss, and I could picture it all so clearly.

From that moment on, I never looked at her or poetry the same way again. She taught me that words had the power to transform people. I never told anyone what a life-changing experience I had that day in sixth grade. They would have laughed at me. Even so, I’m sorry I kept it a secret. I wish she would have known—that from that day on—a piece of me loved her.

John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, May 1915

Perhaps Mrs. Mignault is watching me. Maybe she’ll see the day that I hold my book in my hands. And if I’m lucky, she’ll know that I’ve taken her torch and I hold it high.

As someone who's the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

I’m a mom of three boys ages eleven, nine and seven. They were six, four and two when I started to write Touching the Surface. My dad had passed away when I was pregnant with my youngest son. 

Right around that time, a lot of things were pointing me in the direction of writing. A friend took me to an author luncheon, I needed to have an outlet for my feelings about my dad and quite honestly, I was inundated with motherhood. I needed something that belonged to me.

So when I got up the courage to join the SCBWI, I noticed there was a local conference coming up and it was practically in my hometown.

The only problem--it was on my youngest son’s second birthday.

I always believe that my dad must have been pushing me from behind, telling me to go. But I fought it, even though it felt so right. It took awhile to digest the fact that my husband “misses” lots of birthdays when he’s at work. There was a lot of “mommy guilt” before I figured out that being gone for the day didn’t mean I was going to miss the celebration. So—I went. And I’m so glad I did.

Inspired by the conference, particularly Laurie Halse Anderson and K.L. Going, I signed up for an intimate workshop and critique with Kelly (K.L. Going.) I went home and I started to write Touching the Surface so that I would have something for her to look at.

Making that time for myself never scarred my kids, it’s allowed them to see me have passion and determination. They witnessed a dream in the making. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts I could give to them.

As a primary caregiver, I also recommend putting things in perspective. Stop being so hard on yourself.

My code word is flexibility. I’ve stopped beating myself up about my inability to keep a writing schedule or even having enough butt-in-chair time. I write in my head while I’m at the playground. I develop characters while I’m counting Box Tops, and I listen to audio books while I do the laundry or take a shower.

I don’t apologize when I have a week when the kids are sick or obligations have to get done. I also don’t beg forgiveness for the times when I rent a movie or I when I tell the kids that it is not my job to entertain them—they’re kids—they need to use their imagination and play.

My last piece of advice is to stock up. One day, several years ago, my boys came and told me that they had no clean socks to wear to school. I did what every short-for-time, over-worked forgot to do the laundry, aspiring author does…I made them wear my small, stretchy socks instead.

Problem solved—until my oldest boy reminded me, that he was also down to his last pair of underwear. It was firmly suggested that I do some laundry—very quickly—because he had no intentions of wearing my underwear to school the next day.

I got it done. But now we have a supply of underwear and socks that could take us through the apocalypse. Totally, not a bad thing.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Voice & Giveaway: L.B. Schulman on League of Strays

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

L.B. Schulman is the first-time author of League of Strays (Abrams/Amulet, 2012)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

This suspenseful debut follows a group of teenage misfits in their delicious quest for revenge on those who have wronged them at their high school.

When a mysterious note appears in Charlotte’s mailbox inviting her to join the League of Strays, she’s hopeful it will lead to making friends. What she discovers is a motley crew of loners and an alluring, manipulative ringleader named Kade. 

Kade convinces the group that they need one another both for friendship and to get back at the classmates and teachers who have betrayed them. 

But Kade has a bigger agenda. In addition to vandalizing their school and causing fights between other students, Kade’s real intention is a dangerous plot that will threaten lives and force Charlotte to choose between her loyalty to the League and her own conscience. 

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?

When I wrote League of Strays, I never thought of it as “edgy,” but as it turned out, it’s definitely being perceived that way. I know there are some readers who’ve been scared off by the subject matter of revenge and bullying.

I didn’t think of it as edgy as I was writing it because I wrote the story through Charlotte’s point of view, who starts out rather naïve and innocent for her age. I viewed what was happening through her eyes, even justifying the other characters behaviors as she would.

In the end, I think this was the right way to write the book. It’s powerful, and it’s scary at times, but I think it’s a better book for the undiluted strength of its message.

As someone who's the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

It’s a very hard balance to strike, and I am still learning how to do it. With a fall release date, summer was the prime planning time, and also happened to be the time when the kids are around the most. Not so easy.

In fact, as my book got closer to publication, I have had to apply some rules for myself. Having the laptop so accessible was a real problem as I found myself constantly checking email.

So I made a rule that I couldn't look at my laptop after 6 p.m., except for 15 minutes at 9 p.m. This has made my family much happier and has lowered my stress level, too.

Another rule is that every day, I must write an hour minimum, no matter what else calls to me, from promotion to laundry. Usually, that hour stretches longer.

I also email a writing friend every day, letting her know whether or not I’ve reached my hour goal. She does the same. This holds us accountable.

"What writers do when we should be writing." --L.B.S.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a bookplate-signed copy of League of Strays by L.B. Schulman (Abrams/Amulet, 2012). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: international.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Trailer: Fracture by Megan Miranda

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Fracture by Megan Miranda (Bloomsbury/Walker, 2012). From the promotional copy: 

Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. 

By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage.

Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. 

Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?

Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. 

At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. 

Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?


...a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Austin Writer Jacqueline Kelly Revisits the 'Willows' by Jeff Salamon from The New York Times. Peek: "As Ms. Kelly began writing 'Return to the Willows,' she found one of the characters taking over the story — specifically, the one who represents the sort of disregard for convention that Grahame feared but schoolchildren adore."

Interview with Editor Heather Alexander of Dial by Jenny Martin from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "A lot of times, there is an instant gut reaction when reading submissions.  But once I know I like something or don’t, I focus in on the concrete reasons why."

Are You a Marathon Writer? by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "I am saddened by the talented writers who quit easily. I am even more often encouraged by the medium-talented writers who hang in there and get published."

Jillian Medoff: From Flattened to Fabulous by Sarah Pinneo from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "'And it flopped,' Medoff told me. 'It had great reviews... and lousy sales.'"

The Mortal Review: Cassandra Clare on Diversity from RaceBending.com. Peek: "When I did a signing in Mexico City, dozens of girls came up and asked me whether I would include a Hispanic female character soon and I was happy to be able to say that yes, as my next series is set in Los Angeles one of the major female protagonists is Mexican, and they were so happy — it made me feel sad to see how starved they were for representation in the fantasy adventure books they love."

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Uma Krishnaswami's Top 10 and a Quick Chat from PaperTigers Blog. Peek: "I started out by thinking of the face-off we see so often between human sprawl and green, growing things."

Three Steps for Using Prompts to Write Better and Get Published from Jane Friedman. Peek: "Through a simple three-step process, I built up my writing stamina and got tangible results just by doing writing exercises, and you can do it too."

A (Revised) Plot Checklist by editor Cheryl Klein from Brooklyn Arden.

Always Write Terrible First Drafts by Carolyn Kaufman from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "...if you always consider your first draft terrible, you’re not going to be offended when others point out weak areas."

Guessing and Misunderstandings in Plot by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "Plots that have a guess or a misconception at the heart of them are very difficult to pull off because there is not a lot for your reader to hook into and believe in."

Books of Wonder (a children's bookstore) in NYC Needs to Raise $100,000 to Survive by Maryann Yin from GalleyCat. Peek: "As of this writing, they have received more than $20,000 in contributions. The campaign will last for 30 more days." Donate and help spread the word.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Native American Month 2012 by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "...suggestions on how you might get your library ready for parents, teachers and students who come into your library looking for materials on American Indians."

Mary's Magic: video interviews with author-illustrator Mary Sullivan about her upcoming picture book, Ball (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), by Mark G. Mitchell from How to Be a Children's Book Illustrator. Peek: "Based on the ball-chasing dog Mary never had, Ball uses only one word, repeatedly to tell of a dog who dreams of chasing a certain red ball."

Katherine Catmull on the Writer and the Storyteller from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. Peek: "...some of us face drafting like a small child faces a doctor with a syringe. Nothing worse could happen. I will do dishes, I will exercise, I will fall asleep at my desk, even, before I will draft."

Being a Writer Means Being a Child Forever by Sue LaNeve from Quirk and Quill. Peek: "Without consciously trying, ideas began to emerge about the era in which I’d set my lovely story. Did this setting detail exist in that year? Was that song released before or after this story event?"

Looking for more publishing links? Try QueryTracker.netBlog.

Cynsational Giveaways

Winners for last week's giveaways have been contacted. If you won but haven't responded, please do so this weekend.

This Week at Cynsations

Tweens Read Book Festival

I accompanied Greg Leitich Smith to Tweens Read Book Festival in Pasadena, Texas last Saturday. Greg was a featured author speaker. Kudos to the Blue Willow Bookshop booksellers and the whole (teacher-librarian packed) volunteer team for an amazing event! See Greg's coverage.

Trent Reedy & Greg Leitich Smith
Chronal Engine cupcake
Editor Virginia Duncan & Stefan Bachmann
Authors assemble on stage
Greg Leitich Smith on a panel
Shana Burg, Claire Legrand, Diana Lopez & Lisa Schroeder
Augusta Scattergood, Deron R. Hicks, Lynne Kelly & W.H. Beck
Shannon Messenger & Lisa Schroeder
Keynoter Heather Brewer
Greg with me at Tweens Read; photo by Shana Burg.
More Personally

This week's highlights included the launch party for Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly, illustrated by Clint G. Young (Henry Holt, 2012)(see cover above).

Jackie & Clint spoke to a standing-room-only crowd.
Lovely live music at the opening reception.
An Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Montgomery County (Texas) Book Festival (Feb. 2, 2013). Peek: "I floated across cliques and...read superhero comics and saw 'Star Wars' (the original, now subtitled “A New Hope”) over 300 times at the movie theater."

Even More Personally

Jurassic Bark
While in Houston, Greg and I visited The Houston Museum of Natural Science. I enjoyed the whole new Hall of Paleontology but especially enjoyed The Jurassic Bark Exhibit.

I'm also excited about the spooky season!
Happy Halloween!

Personal Links

From Greg Leitich Smith

Cynsational Events

Look for Greg Leitich Smith at the Texas Book Festival Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 at the state capitol building in Austin. See also Texas Book Festival 2012 Youth Literature Programming.

Congratulations to Melanie Chrismer on the release of Chachalaca Chiquita, illustrated by David Harrington (Pelican, 2012)! Houston readers, look for her from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 27 at River Oaks Bookstore, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 3 at Barnes & Noble -- River Oaks Center, and from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 10 at Barnes & Noble Town & County.

The Writing Barn (Austin) Presents 2013 Advanced Writing Workshops, featuring editor Alexandra Penfolds (January), YA author Sara Zarr (April), and Francisco X. Stork (November).  See details.
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