Wednesday, November 07, 2012

New Voice & Giveaway: Kim Baker on Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Kim Baker is the first-time author of Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School (Roaring Brook, 2012)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

This is the story of The League of Picklemakers

Ben: who began it all by sneaking in one night and filling homeroom with ball-pit balls.

Frank: who figured out that an official club, say a pickle-making club, could receive funding from the PTA.

Oliver: Who once convinced half of the class that his real parents had found him and he was going to live in a submarine.

Bean: Who wasn't exactly invited, but her parents own a costume shop, which comes in handy if you want to dress up like a giant squirrel and try to scare people at the zoo. 

Together, they are an unstoppable prank-pulling force, and Fountain Point Middle School will never be the same.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

Visit Kim Baker
I don’t think anything influenced the formation of Pickle more than thinking about what the younger me would want from a story.

I was a voracious reader as a kid. I always have been, but during the "middle grade" years I read everything I could— from classics like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Frederick A. Stokes, 1911) and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Harper, 1952) to tons of series and mass-market stuff, with everything in-between.

My parents were really great about providing books and letting me have pretty free reign with a library card.

My elementary school librarian, Mrs. Schuster, recognized me as a book lover and gave me a "job" helping out in the school library after school while my mom was working. She would give me tasks around the library like tidying up and shelving, and we'd talk about books. Having that kind of "after hours" access to the stacks and a children’s book expert really helped me find my tastes as a reader.

There were some rough patches in that phase of my life, and I tended to steer toward books with fun and irreverence. I developed an early appreciation for humor. I was a semi-inadvertent troublemaker and so are the characters in Pickle. I wanted to make a story about goodhearted troublemakers, more mischievous than mean-spirited. The secret prank club starts out as a creative way to have fun, but when a rogue prank threatens their new alliance they use their unorthodox skills to push back.

Hopefully, it’s subtle, but there’s an underlying theme of standing up for individuality. As a young reader, anytime the kids in the story became empowered somehow, it was a plus. And if they beat an unfair system? It blew my mind.

I think I would have really been drawn to a book like Pickle as a young reader. And apart from the humor and shenanigans, I would’ve been really excited about a Mexican-American protagonist.

Kim's workspace
There was, and is, a huge void of books with Latino characters. Last year, Mitali Perkins pointed out that Latinos make up over 16% of the U.S. Population, but less than 2% of kid/YA books are written by Latinos or about Latino characters. That’s crazy!

I’m a mash-up of a Mexican-American Californian mom and an Anglo-Texan dad. I grew up in Wyoming and we’d spend summers in urban Los Angeles with my mom’s side of the family.

As a young reader, I could find books on practically anything in the library, except one that reflected aspects of my cultural identity. I tried to create something that my kid self would’ve been really excited to find on the library shelf: diverse characters in a story filled with silliness, friends, covert operations, creativity, and protest. That fits younger me down to the core. It pretty much sums me up presently as well.

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?

It was tricky, because I wanted the characters to use technology in their exploits, but I was worried about dating the story. I didn’t include any gadgetry beyond basic computers for two reasons. Electronics are the best example of how quickly technology can change. Just look at the shift from push-button style cell phones to smart phones over the last couple of years. If I’d mentioned the old style of texting that was more common while I was writing Pickle, it would be out of date by now. And secondly, my characters are middle schoolers from mostly working class families. They probably wouldn’t be that wired into the newest tools.

But, I wanted my characters to use the Internet to their advantage and create a hole in the wall where the story ends and the real world starts. The group creates a website for their pickle-making club, Pickles Forever. But like the club itself, it’s a front. If you click on the fizzy pickle soup recipe and then the word “simmer” there will be a new page with a password prompt. Enter “cheese” and it opens up another website with information and pranks for the P.T.A. (Prank and Trick Association) “maintained” by the characters. Kids can log their own pranks or comment on others. There’s a map feature to mark a new chapter and a decoder wheel for encrypted messages.

Kim's workspace
We tried to think of fun things kids could do while staying within the COPPA regulations (not collecting any identifying information on minors). The good thing about the website is that it can be adapted as times change. My husband is a programmer, so that definitely helps.

One of the characters has a website, Cat vs. Dude, that she works on during the story.

Kids like going out of the book to see evidence of the characters online. Technology is changing all the time, but websites are going to be around longer than other aspects.

It’s just another way of breaking down the fourth wall and looking at adapting our storytelling with new outlets. I think there’s a lot of potential for multi-media storytelling by working technology into the story in an organic way that expands beyond the page.

Cynsational Notes

Great Examples of Humor in Kid Lit & YA: a bibliography compiled by Kim Baker. Organized by format and age-market category.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of three copies of Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker (Roaring Brook, 2012). Author sponsored. Eligibility: international.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for Feral Nights (Book One in the Feral series) by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 2012). From the promotional copy:

Fans of the Tantalize quartet will thrill to see werepossum Clyde and other favorite secondary characters — plus all-new ones — take to the fore in book one of an all-new series.

When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation.

Meanwhile, werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis.

When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species. The island harbors a grim secret and were-predator and were-prey must join forces in a fight to escape alive. 

Fans of best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith Tantalize quartet will thrill to see favorite sidekick characters--together with all-new ones--take to the fore in this wry, high-action entry in an exciting new series.

Enter to win an advanced reader copy of Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 2012). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

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Monday, November 05, 2012

New Voice: E. Kristin Anderson on Dear Teen Me

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

E. Kristin Anderson is the author of Dear Teen Me, co-authored by Miranda Kenneally (Zest, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Dear Teen Me includes advice from over 70 YA authors to their teenage selves. The letters cover a wide range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium.

So pick a page, and find out which of your favorite authors had a really bad first kiss? Who found true love at 18? Who wishes he’d had more fun in high school instead of studying so hard? Some authors write diary entries, some write letters, and a few graphic novelists turn their stories into visual art.

And whether you hang out with the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the loners, the class presidents, the delinquents, the jocks, or the nerds, you’ll find friends–and a lot of familiar faces–in the course of Dear Teen Me.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

You know, this is a funny question for me. And I think that’s because my first reaction is, well, I was a precocious reader who “outgrew” the small YA section (it was so tiny when I was young – so glad it’s huge now!) and moved on from Judy Blume, Gary Paulsen, and Lois Duncan to adult fantasy authors like Piers Anthony before giving up reading altogether in high school because I couldn’t keep up with the assignments.

But then I remembered that one of my favorite books in sixth grade was Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic. It’s a book that blew my world wide open.Some people refer to it as the modern Anne Frank, and it’s an apt comparison, since Zlata’s Diary is the diary of a young girl in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

I identified with her. And all I wanted to read after that was diaries. There weren’t a lot, and for the rest of sixth grade, I mostly read Lurlene McDaniel books about kids dealing with illness and other “real life” issues.

So maybe it’s some strange twist of fate that my first book isn’t one of the novels I’ve written (and, fingers crossed, ones you’ll be able to find next to Dear Teen Me on a shelf one day soon), but a collection of true stories about real life issues.

I wasn’t thinking of Zlata when I started the blog or even when Miranda Kenneally and I began putting together the book. But I’m certainly thinking of her now. And I really hope that teens read some of the true stories in Dear Teen Me and think “that’s like me” or “that could be someone I know” or “I feel less alone” or “I feel like a world citizen today.”

As a nonfiction writer, what first inspired you to take on your topic? What about it fascinated you? Why did you want to offer more information about it to young readers?

Teen E. Kristin in pink pleather pants!
In 2010, I went to a Hanson concert with my boyfriend. It was the first time I’d seen Hanson, and I spent most of my teenage years idolizing the band. They were my age, they were living their dream as artists and musicians, and I loved their music. I wanted so badly to see them live, but when I was in high school, they never toured close enough to Maine (where I grew up) for me to see them.

So when I was at the concert, I kept thinking about my teen self, and how much she would have loved to be there. I went home and wrote an epically long post on my blog, a letter to my teen self, about the concert, and how much Hanson meant to us then and how it still was something we would love as an adult.

I was sitting at a café with P.J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, and K.A. Holt when I was struck with the idea that this would make a great blog. I emailed about 50 authors I knew, figuring maybe half of them would be interested. I was overwhelmed by the yesses.

And Miranda offered to help, which was amazing, because I was in desperate need of it.

When we put together the blog, we thought it was great to have a space for authors to reach out to teens in this entertaining but also heartwarming way. I think a lot of adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager – and why wouldn’t they? Being a teen is really, really hard!

But authors – YA authors especially – remember those years viscerally. And was (and still is) a space where teens can come and find adults who remember and care.

The fact that a book came of it is still surprising and exciting for me. I love that teens will be able to hold these letters in their hands, and pass them around, and share the issues that were just as real in the '70s, '80s, and '90s as they are now. It’s been fascinating for us to see how no matter how different the hair and the clothes and the cars are, the insecurities, the bad days, and the big issues have remained the same.

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?

I’m going to talk about my publisher, Hallie Warshaw. She wasn’t the editor of the book, but she had a huge impact on how the book looks and feels, the concepts we ran with, and ultimately, the fact that it even exists.

I met Hallie at ALA Annual in New Orleans in 2011. I was approaching the Zest/HMH booth about possibly getting a few Dear Teen Me letters from her authors for the website.

Hallie saw my business card and asked me about it and the website. And after I explained the concept, she said it would make a great book, gave me her card, and told me to get in touch.

I immediately texted Miranda, my co-editor, who is represented by Sara Megibow. And the more we all talked with Hallie, the more we knew this was the best place for a Dear Teen Me anthology.

I think one thing that really struck me was the beauty of Zest’s books. If you haven’t picked one up yet, you should! Most of their books have full-color interiors, innovative design work, and a really fun feel. Dear Teen Me is as much about nostalgia as it is about teen issues, and I loved the idea of having a fun book that could actually include our embarrassing teen photos, and the possibility of having a few extras – like the “sidebars” throughout the book featuring answers to questions like “What was your first job?” and “What was your most embarrassing moment?”

Also, Hallie and I talked a lot at ALA and in other meetings about how there isn’t a whole lot of nonfiction out there for teens. It’s getting better, but we’re not there yet. And Zest is doing a fabulous job of filling that niche with smart, funny, beautiful, important books.

I’m proud to be a part of the extended Zest family!

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

I have been really fortunate to have a number of amazing writers in my life, but I think the one person that truly took me to that next level is Jessica Lee Anderson.

Emily (with Jessica) mugs for the camera, photo by K.A. Holt
We met when I was a bookseller helping out at an SCBWI event. We were introduced by Madeline Smoot, publisher at CBAY books, who went to Hollins University with Jessica. We had an immediate connection (it was totally kismet!) and agreed to start meeting for critique.

 At the time, I was still working on finishing my first novel, and she was working on a middle grade adventure.

When we traded manuscripts, I was really apprehensive. Jessica was a pro, she had actual books out, and she was trusting me with a work in progress.

I told her that I didn’t know how much I could offer her as an unpublished writer. And she told me that it didn’t matter, because she knew how much I read, and the best critique partners are good readers. (She heard this from Linda Sue Park at an SCBWI conference, and it’s true!)

We’ve since learned so much from each other – about writing, about life, about the publishing industry. She’s always been amazingly encouraging, and never for a minute doubted that I’d “make it.” I love having Jessica not only as a critique partner and mentor but as a friend. She’s truly a blessing! (And she’s also on the cover of Dear Teen Me – see if you can spot her!)

Follow the Dear Teen Me blog tour for more information, contest & giveaways.

Cynsational Notes

Dear Teen Me contributors include Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Guest Interview & Giveaway: Author Chris Howard & Scholastic Editor Mallory Kass on Rootless

By Chris Howard & Mallory Kass
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

CHRIS: If there's one person who's read Rootless almost as many times as I have, it's my brilliant editor, Mallory Kass of Scholastic Press. 

But Mallory didn't just help make Rootless the best it could be, she also guided me along the "publication path", answering my questions and advocating on my behalf. Whether it was the way the book reads, the cover design, the title itself, Mallory was involved every step of the way. 

To me, one of the greatest things about Mallory is that she's "chill" I'm pretty laid-back a lot of the time, but when it comes to something like copy-editing (to comma, or not to comma!), I can start going crazy over every tiny thing. Mallory is the calm in the storm, and makes for a great partner in crime. 

The best thing of all about working with Mallory? 

When we started to work on Rootless, she said her job was to make sure readers would most clearly experience my vision of the novel. Yeah! That's Mallory Kass, for you! And here she is for our Book Blog Tour Exclusive Q&A!

CHRIS: We first met at the Big Sur Writing Workshop, and you were one of the first people to ever read the first chapter of Rootless. What was it that made you want to read more?

MALLORY: As an editor, I’m drawn to manuscripts with beautiful writing and sophisticated world-building. Rootless (then called "The Tree Catcher") had all this on page 1. That great first line, “They figured me too young for a tree builder,” sucked me right into Banyan’s world. I immediately wanted to know: why does this guy need to build trees? Who is he working for?

Then, in addition to that initial burst of curiosity, I felt myself swept away by the elegance of your prose. The description of the tree tattoo juxtaposes the harsh reality of Banyan’s life so well, and gave me an immediate sense of his craving for beauty—one of the defining forces in the novel.

CHRIS: I was surprised during the editing process that Rootless actually got longer, rather than shorter. In fact, it kept getting longer and longer, and then we started cutting some things out! Is that typical? Do you usually encourage authors to expand on ideas and characters, before you start looking for places to trim down? 

MALLORY: It depends on the manuscript. Because you’re such a thoughtful, economic writer, there really wasn’t much in the first draft that felt superfluous.

In other situations, it’s sometimes necessary to make cuts right away, to get at the heart of the story, and then think about where you want to build it out.

CHRIS: Do you have a favorite character in Rootless? Which one would you most like to share a bag of popcorn with?

MALLORY: Well, I adore Banyan, of course. But I think I’d probably choose to hang out with Alpha. Maybe she could show me the best way to rock a mohawk!

CHRIS: What's your favorite thing about being an editor? And what do you think people would find most surprising about a day in the life of Mallory Kass?

On nice days, Chris loves to write in his garden.
MALLORY: One of my favorite things about being an editor is that feeling I mentioned above, when I read the first few pages of a manuscript and feel myself being pulled into another world as the beauty of the writing casts its spell.

I also love having the chance to be involved in every stage of the process, from working with authors, brainstorming with designers, coordinating with marketing, publicity, and sales, and then having the joy of seeing readers connect with the book just like I did!

I’m always a little surprised by how much fun I manage to have at the office! I have the privilege of working with an incredible group of intelligent, passionate people, and even though we’re all super busy, the atmosphere is always creative and playful.

CHRIS: What are some of your thoughts on the digital revolution happening in publishing? What do you think it means for authors, and publishers? And do you think physical books might disappear, as they have in Banyan's world?

MALLORY: It’s a very exciting time to be in publishing! Scholastic has always been committed to providing fantastic stories for kids and teens, and we’re going to continue to that in whatever way works best for our readers, their parents, teachers, and librarians!

CHRIS: There was one line near the end of revisions, where you said, "what if Banyan said this ____?" and it was so perfectly in character, I just stuck the line right in there! If something terrible happened to me before I finished the trilogy, would you consider wrapping it up? No pressure or anything.

MALLORY: Oh, goodness. I’m flattered by your faith in me, but I don’t think anyone could bring Banyan, Alpha, Zee, Crow and the rest of your incredibly complex characters to life like you did. I think for the sake of your fans, you’ll just have to be very careful about looking both ways when you cross the street!

CHRIS: And now, the tables get turned, and it's Mallory's turn to ask me questions!

MALLORY: What surprised you the most about the editorial process?

Brainstorming at Annapurna Basecamp in the Himalayas
CHRIS: Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but the first time I visited the Scholastic offices in New York, I sort of imagined things being a bit stuffy and "strictly business", but everyone was so passionate about their work and super busy, while being super friendly and fun at the same time. I felt like my book was way more than just a "product", and that was a great feeling.

Because when you see this personal story you wrote become "eligible for free shipping" and things, it's a strange feeling.

But then you meet people like the team at Scholastic, or booksellers, or readers, and you remember that people are in this world because of the magic of books.

MALLORY: If you could spend three months living and writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

CHRIS: Anywhere there was no internet, no phone service, and plenty of trees to walk around in! How about Big Sur, California? Then I'd be by the ocean, too. And I could see Magnus Toren who runs the Henry Miller Memorial Library. He's awesome!

MALLORY: In one my favorite recent movies, "Midnight in Paris," the main character goes back in time and asks Hemingway to read his manuscript. If you could time travel, which writer would you ask to critique a novel you’re still working on?

CHRIS: I loved that movie, too! And it'd be tough to beat Hemingway, right? But I'm going with Mark Twain. I actually think Banyan and Huck Finn would get along well, and I think I'd have a blast hanging out with Mr. Twain.

MALLORY: What’s the strangest habit you developed while writing?

CHRIS: The way I type is not something you would call normal It's like my own weird version of hunting and pecking.

Camper van has solar panels to keep the laptop juiced.
MALLORY: Which would you least want to write a complete novel without A) music B) caffeine C) a computer?

CHRIS: A good story is better than caffeine, right? And as much as I love music, I always write in silence. So… I'm going with a computer, as soulless as that sounds!

To be honest, my penmanship is so bad that even I can't read it, so I really need that computer, I guess.

MALLORY: Which celebrity would you be most excited to have at a reading of Rootless? 

CHRIS: I'm going with Bob Dylan. I love that guy. He's amazing, and a big inspiration. His lyricism has had a big influence on my writing, and the idea of him hearing some of my prose would be too cool! Maybe I could get him to do the reading for me, or at least knock out a couple of tunes.

Cynsational Giveaway

Rootless T-shirts; winner will choose color and specify size.
Enter to win a Rootless T-shirt and a signed, personalized copy of Rootless (Scholastic, 2012), and bookmarks. Eligibility: international. Deadline: Dec. 5. Note: Follow the rest of the Rootless tour for more chances to win Rootless swag.

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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: " 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: " 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.

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