Saturday, November 03, 2012

Giveaway: The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win one of four copies of The Christmas Tugboat: How the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Came to New York City by George Matteson and Adele Ursone, illustrated by James Ransome (Clarion, 2012). From the promotional copy:

The splendid iconic Christmas tree at New York City's Rockefeller Center doesn't just spring up overnight. It is delivered by tugboat on the Hudson River. 

This is the story of how one such tree made the journey.

Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada).

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Video: "Write On -- Mark Twain" by Alan Silberberg

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

A little inspiration video for NaNoWriMo participants from Alan Silberberg.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Learn about Ten by Gretchen McNeil
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

How to Write Scary by Gretchen McNeil from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. Peek: "...conveying fear isn't just about describing a situation, object, or person that someone might find scary, but giving a blow-by-blow of the event and actually detailing the fear reaction in the characters."

Kid-Lit Cares: Superstorm Sandy Relief Auction from Kate Messner. Peek: "...an online talent auction to benefit the Red Cross relief effort for Sandy. Agents, editors, authors, and illustrators have donated various services to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with donations being made directly to the Red Cross disaster relief fund."

Pearson Confirms Penguin Merger with Random House by Reuters from The New York Times. Peek: "Britain's Pearson and Germany's Bertelsmann are to merge their publishers Penguin and Random House, aiming to gain the upper hand in their relationship with Amazon and Apple, the leaders in the ebook revolution."

Everyone's Afraid of Something by Jennifer R. Hubbard from YA Outside the Lines. Peek: "Fear usually means we have something to lose, something to cherish."

Be the Lemon Square – Top Submission Tips from My Internship with Kid-Lit Super Agent C by Mima Tipper from Hen & Ink. Peek: "...an agent’s got to love the heck out of a book’s Voice in its rough and murky state to want to follow it through the possible dark of a l-o-n-g revision."

Cover Stories: Something Wicked with Kelly Parra from Melissa Walker. Peek: "The model gives a paranormal creepy feel with the death mask, yet the pink flowers and dress make it just a bit feminine."

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth (Scholastic), highlighted by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature. Note: "Eric Gansworth, a writer and visual artist, is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation.  Currently, he is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York."

Q&A with Teaching Agent Mary Kole by Esther Herhsenhorn from Teaching Authors. Peek: "Beginnings are tough to do well, and I often notice that writers don't start with a strong sense of the present moment and present action."

Hurricane Update: the deadline for the Lee and Low New Visions Award has been extended to Nov. 14 (as in, Nov. 14 postmark). Peek: "The New Visions Award will be given to a middle grade or young adult science fiction, fantasy, or mystery manuscript by a writer of color who has not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published. See the full submissions requirements and guidelines."

SCBWI New On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award by Lee Wind from SCBWI: The Blog. Peek: "The grant will be given to two writers or illustrators who are from an ethnic and/or cultural background that is traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America."

I'm Grateful for Old-fashioned Editors by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "We met at Not Your Average Joe's in Watertown, right near Charlesbridge's offices, a mile or so from my house in the Boston area. 'I'm stuck, Yo. I got nothing,' I said, soaking up Parmesan cheese and olive oil with freshly baked bread."

Top 10 Multicultural Ghost Stories by Marjorie from PaperTigersBlog. Peek: "...they cover a range of age-groups and genres. Some of the ghosts are friendly, some make you ponder, and some are just plain terrifying…" See also the PaperTigers 10th Anniversary Giveaway.

Why Picture Books Are Important by Chris Raschka from Picture Book Month. Peek: "...if we’re going to ask why picture books are important, we might as well ask why talking or telling stories is important."

Win a Library of Signed YA Books from Beth Revis. Note: "...contest runs the entire month of November." Source: Gwenda Bond.

National Adoption Month Begins with Two Classic Stories of Adoption by Ann Angel from The Pirate Tree. Peek: "By the time my children were almost grown, I had found a few especially wonderful stories with adoption themes and this seems like a great opportunity to focus on two classics, stories that have stayed with my family for almost thirty years because of their honest and straightforward approach to adoption issues...."

Project Mayhem: The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers is seeking new contributors. Deadline: Nov. 30. Note: must be willing to contribute two quality posts per month.

Introducing Nonfiction Notes from The Horn Book by Katrina Hedeen from The Horn Book. Peek: "Marc Aronson sums up our goal: 'Look to Nonfiction Notes to help bridge that gap by providing concrete suggestions of high-quality, useful books that are also enjoyable, eye-opening, and mind-broadening.'" See more information.

Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of Blackwood by Gwenda Bond is Rebecca in California.

The winner of Dino-Football by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Barry Gott is Jenn in Wyoming.

The winner of The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma by Tammi Sauer is Heidi in Utah, the winner of Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer is Larissa in Florida, the winner of Oh, Nuts! by Tammi Sauer is Darshana in California.

The winner of a Sinister Sweetness Book Club Kit (10 copies, plus bookmarks and swag, plus a 30-minute Skype visit with Nikki) is Jenny in Texas.

The winners of Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith are Barbra in Alberta, Alicia in Alabama, Joy in Oregon and Candace in Virginia.

The winner of Grave Robber's Secret by Anna Myers is Kathy in Ohio, the winners of Graveyard Girl by Anna Myers are Heidi in Utah and Heather in Tennessee, the winners of Time of the Witches by Anna Myers are Nazarea in Georgia, Susan in Pennsylvania, Deena in New York, the winner of When the Bough Breaks by Anna Myers is Deena in New York, the winners of Tulsa Burning by Anna Myers are Susan in Pennsylvania, Patti in North Dakota, and the winner of Ethan Between Us by Anna Myers is Alicia in Alabama.

See also New YA Books in Stores, Plus Three Giveaways from Adventures in YA & Children's Literature.

This Week at Cynsations
More Personally 

This past week's highlight was the 2012 Texas Book Festival.

Lisa McMann, Katherine Catmull, Greg Leitich Smith & Bethany Hegedus
Nikki Loftin, Rene Saldaña Jr., Guadalupe Garcia McCall
2012 TLA Bluebonnet author Shana Burg with Avi
Liz Garton Scanlon
Roland Smith

See more Texas Book Festival pics!

Cynsational readers! I'm cheerfully buried deep in the deadline cave. Please hold off on any non-time-sensitive correspondence/requests until further notice.

Congratulations to E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally on the release of Dear Teen Me (Zest, 2012), which includes contributions from authors such as Jessica Lee Anderson, Joseph Bruchac, K.A. Holt, P.J. Hoover, Ellen Hopkins, Carrie Jones, Kekla Magoon, Cynthia Leitich Smith (and many more)! Note: Central Texans, don't miss the Dear Teen Me Launch Party at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at The BookSpot in Round Rock. 

Congratulations to Shannon Morgan of San Antonio, who has been admitted to the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts!

How to Host an Author, From an Author: a Q&A with Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Outreach Librarian. Peek: "Is there a threatened closing, a recent death in the faculty/student body—really anything that might impact our choice of words and/or demeanor?"

The Top Five Native American Writers You Should Be Reading from Lit Stack. Peek: "Regarded as an expert in children’s-YA literature by the press, she (Cynthia Leitich Smith) also hosts a website for Children’s Literature Resources."

Personal Links
Cynsational Events

Library Jubilee 2012 - The Quest for Imagination will be Nov. 6 in Waco, Texas. Keynote speaker: Cynthia Leitich Smith.



Central Texans, don't miss the Dear Teen Me Launch Party at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at The BookSpot in Round Rock.

Cynthia Leitich Smith will sign from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at The BookSpot in Round Rock.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

New Voice: Lana Krumwiede on Freakling

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Lana Krumwiede is the first-time author of Freakling (Candlewick, 2012). From the promotional copy:

In twelve-year-old Taemon’s city, everyone has a power called psi -- the ability to move and manipulate objects with their minds. 

When Taemon loses his psi in a traumatic accident, he must hide his lack of power by any means possible.

But a humiliating incident at a sports tournament exposes his disability, and Taemon is exiled to the powerless colony. The "dud farm" is not what Taemon expected, though: people are kind and open, and they actually seem to enjoy using their hands to work and play and even comfort their children.

Taemon adjusts to his new life quickly, making friends and finding unconditional acceptance. But gradually he discovers that for all its openness, there are mysteries at the colony, too -- dangerous secrets that would give unchecked power to psi wielders if discovered.

When Taemon unwittingly leaks one of these secrets, will he have the courage to repair the damage -- even if it means returning to the city and facing the very people who exiled him?

A thrilling, fast-paced dystopian novel about the dangers of unchecked power and the dilemmas facing a boy torn between two ways of life.

Could you tell us about your writing community-your critique group or partner or other sources of emotional and/or professional support?

Photo by Robyn O'Neill
My critique group has been a major player in the creation of Freakling. When I joined the group, I was writing short stories and poems for magazines. This was great training for me and I enjoyed it.

A few years later, I decided to tackle a novel and my group was were tremendously supportive. Without that encouragement, I’m not sure I would have finished.

As it was, it took me three years to write the book, which is a long time to sustain the kind of focus that novel writing requires. Their comments helped me find the story I needed to tell. Their enthusiasm motivated me through many setbacks.

About two years into the all this, I moved from Idaho to Virginia and immediately started looking for another group. After dozens of calls and emails, I discovered there was no in-person critique group for children’s writers in my area, so I started one.

Once again, they became a vital source of energy and motivation. I got myself stuck in this endless loop of feeling the manuscript wasn’t good enough and launching into another round of nit-picky revisions.

Polishing your manuscript is important, to be sure; but in this case, revision became a safe place for me. Finally, one of the members of the group pulled me aside and said, “You’re procrastinating. There’s no good reason not to start submitting.” And I knew he was right. I promised that I would submit before the next meeting.

Things happened fast after that. When the group met again, I had four agents that were considering the full manuscript. I signed with my amazing agent, Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management, a couple of weeks later.

My Virginia group has been together for three years now, and it just keeps getting better. Now we are helping each other with book promotion in addition to our critique sessions.

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

Lana's world building binder
The idea for this story was rattling around in my head for some time before I finally tried to actually write the first chapter. I knew that I needed to understand psi, how it worked and what the limitations and rules were.

For that, I read a lot about the theories behind telekinesis—there are rational people who believe that it is theoretically possible—and even got on a few discussion boards to ask some questions. One or two people took the time to reply and that was extremely helpful.

After I had psi figured out (more or less), I started on the things that would affect a child’s life the most: school, family life, religion. But as I continued writing, I continually came to scenes where I needed more.

It was a tedious business—I won’t lie about that. I would write a little, and I’d come to a part where they needed to ride in a car. I’d have to shift from writing mode to world-building mode. What was the car like? Who drove it and how? What did the street signs look like?

Before I could write again, I’d work on that for a few days, jotting down notes, drawing pictures, a map of the city, and organizing all this in a binder. This happened many times with different topics—geography, commerce, food, clothing. The binder filled up quickly.

More than once, I had to go back and rewrite scenes to reflect the world building I was doing along the way. I wanted to show that psi had affected life so deeply that even the most basic, ordinary things had changed. At the same time, I wanted to show what hadn’t changed—kids still pushed the boundaries their parents provided, for example.

There’s another aspect that I call micro world-building; that is, the culture and traditions of that particular family. Taemon’s family is more religious than most others in his community, so their ways of doing things are slightly different. I needed to show that, too, a culture within a culture. Layers of world building.

It was a lot of work, but I absolutely loved it. One of the first things that people mention about Freakling is the world building, and that makes me happy.

Cynsational Notes

Download a three-chapter excerpt of Freakling for Kindle or Nook. See also Classroom Discussion Questions.

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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