Friday, December 07, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

C.K. Kelly Martin on Reconnecting with Your Lost Love of Writing from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. Peek: " matter how much we love to write, rejection can take a heavy toll, riddling us with doubt and draining our creative energy."

Just Begin It by Brian Yansky by Brian's Blog: Diary of a Writer. Peek: "You have to start a manuscript to finish one."

Post NaNo Revisions: The Agents' Perspective by Kristin Halbrook from YA Highway. Peek: "Here to give you more insight, encouragement and advice as you dive into the next phase of crafting your fabulous new novel are six fantastic agents, each well-versed in the after-effects of Nano."

Taking on Procrastination by Gail Gauthier from Original Content. Peek: "Real procrastination, the hardcore stuff, involves individuals choosing to do something that will, essentially, harm them, meaning not doing the work toward a goal that would benefit them." See also the Dynamics of Change by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid.

The Caldecott Medal Infographic from School Library Journal.

Visual Editing: Color Coding Your Way to a Clearer Manuscript by Danyelle Leafty from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "Going through your manuscript and color coding it can be time intensive, but has proven, for me, to be one of the most thorough ways of pushing small cracks and flaws out into the surface and highlighting the bigger problems with neon lights."

Picture Book Biographies with First-Person Point of View from Donna Bowman Bratton. Peek: "...welcome to the world of picture books where good storytelling often trumps general rules of nonfiction literature. These are all well researched, compelling, lovely books worth paying attention to."

A Few Handy (Writing) Rules of Thumb and Why You Might Not Use Them by Mette Ivie Harrison. Peek: "Make sure that there is some conflict in the first chapter, even if it isn't the major conflict of the book."

Author Insights: Reading Turn-ons and Turn-offs from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "What always compels you to pick up a book? Do you have a reading turn-off that guarantees you’ll put one down?"

So You Have 50,000 Words, Now What? by Lee Bross from YA Highway. Peek: "You’re not going to climb Everest in your underwear with no supplies to speak of, so why would you send out a jumble of words to an agent or an editor without making sure they are the best they can be?" See also My Three-Point Revision Checklist from Anna Staniszewski.

Guest Editor Stacy Innerst: The Risk of Illustration Notes in Picture Book Manuscripts from Peek: "I prefer to have the opportunity to have an unencumbered first impression of the story, no matter how spare the text might be."

Hunger Mountain - Science Fiction/Fantasy Issue: featuring articles by Nikki Loftin, K.A. Holt, Greg Leitich Smith, and Meredith Davis. Peek: "Our goal for this issue is to bring some of that literary science fiction and fantasy to our readers."

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the trailer for Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Gerard DuBois (Roaring Brook, 2012).

Cynsational Giveaways
The winner of Rootless T-shirt and a signed, personalized copy of Rootless by Chris Howard (Scholastic, 2012), and bookmarks was Heather in Ontario.

See also New YA Lit in Stores & Two-book Giveaway from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.

This Week at Cynsations
A Dino a Day: A Chronal Engine Celebration

Amy's Ice Creams
Greg Leitich Smith continues his celebration of the holiday season by modeling his 2012 release, Chronal Engine (Clarion) and his wardrobe of dinosaur T-shirts at Austin landmarks.

Remember? Every day a different rockin' dinosaur T-shirt at a different super-fantastic Austin locale.

Please brighten his week (and mine, too) by clicking through, leaving a comment, and/or passing on the link(s). Please also feel free to compliment the photographer (cough) -- ha!

More Personally

New hair cut -- long layers
With my stylist Barbara Morin at Sirens Salon in Austin
Research for the novel on deadline!

Introductory Chapter Books to Match Diverse Young Readers (including Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2002)) from The New York Times. See also Young Latino Students Don't See Themselves in Books by Motoko Rich from The New York Times.

Mission Dancers Awe Frenchtown Students by Daniel Martynowicz from Valley Journal. Peek: "So what do Native American dancers and more than 100 Frenchtown second-graders have in common? Jingle Dancer, a children’s book by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ying-Hwa Hu, and Cornelius Van Wright."

The first review of Feral Nights (Candlewick, 2013) is in! Kirkus Reviews cheers, "...dialogue that sparkles with wit, filled with both literary and pop-culture references. ('You’re saying that you and my sister perform exorcisms on vomiting children with rotating heads?')...playful, smart tone."

Congratulations to Varsha Bajaj! From Publishers Marketplace: "Varsha Bajaj's debut novel Passage to Bollywoood, in which an American thirteen year old discovers the father she never knew is a famous Bollywood movie star yet when she travels to India to meet him she must hide her identity from the press for one slip-up could jeopardize his career and their new-found relationship in this Princess Diaries meets Flipped Bollywood-Style, to Kelly Barrales-Saylor at Albert Whitman, by Jill Corcoran at The Herman Agency."

Happy 90th birthday to children's author Barbara Brooks Wallace!

Personal Links
Cynsational Events 

2013 Advanced Writing Workshops -- Simon & Schuster Editor Alexandra Penfolds, Deconstructing Children's Literature Characters Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 at The Writing Barn in Austin. Application deadline: Dec. 1.

Austin SCBWI Regional Conference Early-Bird Registration Deadline: Dec. 19. After that, the price goes up $25.

2013 Novel Writing Retreat for Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers will be March 15 to March 17 at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Study with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lauren Myracle and Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa.

Extended Three-Session Intensive Workshop: Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson will be running a three-part revision intensive in Westport, Connecticut, over three Saturdays in January, February, and March. Peek: "Bring your picture book, nonfiction, or novel manuscript and get multiple rounds of feedback as well as revision techniques."

Sneak Peek at New Year's Workshops from the Highlights Foundation. Peek: "'Whole Novel Workshop: Young Adult' with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Greg Leitich Smith, Nancy Werlin. Founded in 2006, the Whole Novel Workshop is specifically designed for writers of young-adult novels. This unique program offers the one-on-one attention found in degree programs, but without additional academic requirements, lengthy time commitments, or prohibitive financial investments. Our aim is to focus on a specific work in progress, moving a novel to the next level in preparation for submission to agents or publishers. Focused attention in an intimate setting makes this mentorship program one that guarantees significant progress."

Thursday, December 06, 2012

New Voice: Hillary Hall De Baun on Starring Arabelle

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Hillary Hall De Baun is the first-time author of Starring Arabelle (Eerdmans, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Impulsive, romantic Arabelle Archer is determined to make the most of her freshman year. She'll audition for the school play and soon be on her way to the stardom she knows is her destiny.

Arabelle's year gets off to a unexpectedly rocky start, however, when all the roles in the play go to upperclassmen and she has to settle for prompting. 

And to make matters worse, her guidance counselor insists that she fulfill her community service requirement by volunteering at the Heavenly Rest Nursing Home -- the last place she wants to be.

But when a crisis puts the school play at risk, Arabelle realizes the true value of the friendships she's made at Heavenly Rest, and discovers that making a lasting impression isn't always about being a star.

Was there one writing workshop or conference that led to an “ah-ha!” moment in your craft? What happened, and how did it help you?

Several years ago, when I had struggled through endless drafts of Starring Arabelle and was not happy, I took myself to a week-long whole-novel workshop offered by the Highlights Foundation. Phyllis Root and Jane Resh Thomas, both well-published authors, led the small group.

One of the first comments from Phyllis Root after she read my manuscript was, “Why are you solving Arabelle’s problems so quickly? Where’s the thread of tension that makes readers want to turn the pages to the very end?”

Wow, was she ever spot on! I had become a helicopter parent to my heroine. Instead of letting Arabelle’s problems in the school play get worse and worse until all hope of achieving her dream to be a great actress seemed doomed, I had fixed the problems, one by one, with great dispatch. I did the same thing at the nursing home, where Arabelle volunteered. Her failures there quickly turned to triumphs. Needless to say, my story arcs were small and episodic. No wonder I was unhappy!

Another “ah-ha!” moment at this same workshop happened when I realized that as a comedic writer, I was downplaying serious issues and Arabelle’s heart’s desire—what Jane Resh Thomas calls “the thing your heroine is dying for want of.” By concentrating on the humor part of the story, I had given short shrift to Arabelle’s deepest longings and fears and forgotten that humor is just another side of tragedy.

Alas, the fixing wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. The draft I took to the workshop was in first person, present tense. To apply the “ah-ha!s” I was encouraged to shift to third person, past tense.

Not only was I dubious, I was horrified. A huge revision loomed. But after rewriting several chapters (believe me, many things change when you shift from first person to third—many!) I was convinced that this was the best voice and tense to tell my story, which ultimately made for a still humorous but far deeper, more satisfying novel.

As a comedic writer, how do you decide what’s funny? What advice do you have for those interested in either writing comedies or books with a substantial amount of humor in them?

It’s a funny thing about writing a funny story; it can become “unfunny” very quickly. In my first attempt to write a comedy piece, I used caricature and over-the top humor to carry the load. Improbable situations abounded. But no one except me was amused.

So what road map do you follow to create a funny, memorable stand-alone novel or a series that isn’t hyperbole?
  • Put Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn at the top of your reading list. Avoid cream pie projectiles, pants falling down, and exploding cigars. Those stopped being funny years ago.
  • Create a character that readers can identify with. This doesn’t mean the character has to be like you but that you care about him and understand his travails, though they may be outside your experience. Tom and Huck, again.
  • Find your inner funny bone. Even serious subjects can have a humorous edge.
  • Voice is key to humor. In large part, this is finding your own voice.
  • Show your character’s humor through dialogue.
  • Find a good match between your hero and the plot your novel turns on.

In writing Starring Arabelle, I did not have a funny book in mind. That happened along the way as I discovered Arabelle’s voice: dramatic, impulsive, romantic, and determined in a ninth-grade way.

Why ninth grade? Quite simply, Arabelle’s was a ninth-grade voice. That was the beginning.

What would she say and how would she say it was a recurring question. In the end, Arabelle was the prime mover of the book’s humor.

Hillary as Angelique in "The Imaginary Invalid"
The nursing home plot came out of the blue. Was it because I had visited several nursing homes and been entertained by some of the comical goings-on? 

The school play, "You Can’t Take It With You" (Farrar & Rinehart, 1936), came next, but only after I had sifted through a bunch of plays, searching for the perfect one. The eccentricities of the cast of characters in "You Can’t Take It With You" had to match the antics of the nursing home residents. 

The mishaps and disasters of rehearsals and opening night I borrowed from my own acting experience in amateur theater.

Then came narrative scenes, in no particular order.

The linear events of the story came much later and led eventually to all the pieces fitting together snugly.

But throughout the lengthy writing process, Arabelle’s voice was the glue that held this comedy of errors together.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Career Builder & Giveaway: Linda Joy Singleton

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Linda Joy Singleton on Linda Joy Singleton: "As a kid, I was always writing. During a two-week school vacation, when I was 14, I challenged myself to write a chapter a day, completing a 200 page manuscript. I kept many of my stories and show them to kids I speak to at school.

"After high school, life detoured me away from writing, until one day I heard a radio announcement about a college writing workshop which led to my joining a writing group in Sacramento.

"Two years later, I sold my first book, Almost Twins, to a small publisher.

"I was thrilled when my dream of being a series author came true when Avon published my first two series: My Sister the Ghost and Cheer Squad. More series followed: Regeneration (Berkley 2000), Strange Encounters (Llewellyn 2004), The Seer (Flux 2004), Dead Girl trilogy (Flux 2008), and my latest book Buried: A Goth Girl Mystery by Linda Joy Singleton (Flux 2012)."

What lessons have you learned from your years as a professional writer?

Linda Joy researches Sword Play
  • Writers never stop learning. "Research" is another word for embracing new adventures.
  • Another writer will understand you better than your most supportive friends/family. Who else can understand that joy in a "good" rejection?
  • Take notes. Once I asked a very wise friend why she was handwriting notes at a conference that was being taped. She said it wasn't because she needed the notes, but that the act of writing words on paper helps focus the connection between listening and learning. Writing down information creates a learning path from ears, eyes, heart to hand. Grasping information in a way you can remember later.
  • Read books better than you think you can write. Then you’ll learn to write better.
  • Craft in writing is a concept wrapped in layers of details, rhythm, awareness and study; a fine wine of words that ripens with experience.
  • When rejection flames into anger, never reply to an editor or agent unprofessionally. Wait until the heat of hurt simmers down. Vent to a trusted friend or write down your feelings then destroy the paper. Anger never heals; it's only another rip in a heart.
  • Always say thank you. Gratitude, like a smile, is a gift that keeps on giving. There are no rules. Rules are the figment of someone else's imagination. But there is value in advice, learning and practice. Learn from the wisdom and experiences of others; live by the wisdom and experiences you'll gain along your own journey.
  • There are always exceptions. Like the writer who self-publishes a book that editors assured her no one wants to read---then the book goes on to be a bestseller. Or the writer who gets an agent with his first book who enthusiastically predicts a bestseller, and instead receives poor sales or rejection. Throw the dice and roll with your own career, listening and learning and working hard.
  • Writing is not an easy job--it's satisfying, grueling, fun, amazing, heart-breaking, heart-warming, the worst job ever and the best job ever.
  • Enjoy your writing journey. 
What advice do you have for authors experiencing a career stall?

Linda Joy, age 7, with Sandy
  • Keep on writing.
  • Be willing to put a manuscripts aside when you love it but the market doesn't. (I have retired about seven manuscripts.)
  • Listen to advice from your writing friends. Doing this has led to new opportunities for me.
  • When rejections hurt, vent in private to your friends, never post it publicly.
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I've been doing a lot of that this year, and my books have improved.
  • Be flexible and ready to shift your focus and reinvent yourself when an opportunity arises. Change is scary, but often it's just one door closing so you open a door leading to new exciting places.
  • Be grateful for friends, books you love, and for each "Yay!" moment of your career.
  • Pay good fortune forward with critiques, encouragement, mentoring or the gift of a book.

Cynsational Notes

Linda Joy Singleton looks forward to the release of Snow Dog/Sand Dog (Albert Whitman).

Find her on facebook and twitter and see her official author site for a link to a free short story.

Attention, teachers & librarians! Linda Joy Singleton will send you free bookmarks if you email her at with "Bookmark Request" in the subject line. She'll also offer a free Skype visit to the first teacher (elementary to high school) who emails me.

Enter to win a one-page synopsis consult, plus a copy of Linda Joy Singleton's synopsis template (usually only available at conferences).

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Enter to win a copy of Buried: A Goth Girl Mystery by Linda Joy Singleton (Flux). Author sponsored. U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Book Trailer: The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes (Chronicle, 2012). From the promotional copy:

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is a hilarious middle-grade novel about 12-year-old John and Abigail, their inventor father, a ridiculous dog, and the sarcastic Narrator who tells their story. 

In this first book in the series, The Templeton Twins have to escape the dastardly Dean twins, who have kidnapped them in order to steal their father's inventions!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Career Builder & Giveaway: Caroline B. Cooney

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

What memories of your debut author experience stand out?

In my twenties, I wrote eight full-length adult historical novels set in ancient Rome, none of which were ever published. You’d think I would have noticed prior to writing eight of them that nobody wanted them.

I started writing short stories instead; one was accepted in Seventeen Magazine, and out of that, eventually, came the invitation from a YA editor to write teen paperback romances.

I had found my voice. I loved writing for teens. As to the unsuccessful books,I learned so much writing them. I learned not to give up and I learned to tell a good story fast.

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

If you want to write, don’t follow my footsteps! That’s a lot of failure. The best thing for a new writer is practice. Practice writing the way you’d practice the piano or basketball.

Fifteen minutes a day is fine. You don’t have to finish anything. You’re trying to become fluid at this difficult skill.

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

I did not ever consider giving up. For reasons I can’t identify, the rejections toughened me rather than weakened me. It became a battle: me versus publishing. Now publishing is my ally.

Although the years of failure were hard, my path since then has been a delightful upward route. There haven’t been valleys and there haven’t been rapids. I was blessed with brilliant editors and good publishers. YA readers embrace every kind of book – mystery, romance, suspense, time travel, family saga, historical fiction – and my editors have allowed me to try all those.

What can your readers expect next?

I’m working on my third historical novel – out of 91 books!

I’ve put a full year into research and travel so that I can tell the story of the English children who will eventually sail on the Mayflower.

I am riveted by their lives – such drama and tragedy. It’s a privilege to write about their courage and determination. I am so excited that my readers will soon see who these amazing children are.

I’m not sure what I’ll write then. Will I return to suspense novels? Experiment with something entirely different? A different age reader or a different kind of story?

There’s still so much out there. And it’s exciting suddenly to be in a new publishing age: digital books and e-short stories.

Cynsational Screening Room

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney (Delacorte/Random House). Publisher sponsored. U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...