Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview: Author-Illustrator-Designer Emma J. Virján

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome back to Cynsations! You last visited Cynsations to talk about your path to publication, Nacho the Party Puppy (Random House) and your love of children’s literature.

What’s new in your creative life?

My focus lately has been twofold, illustration, both for kid lit and editorial publication, and picture books. I love developing characters and having them tell a story as they evolve on my drawing table.

I both illustrate and write my stories, so it's always fascinating to have each discipline support the other. At the moment, my agent is helping me polish up a manuscript for submission.

I'm also working on a 4" x 6" series of hand-drawn illustrations/postcards. In this ever expanding digital world in which we live, it's so easy to get away from the hands-on experience of drawing with pens, pencils and markers. The small drawings give me the opportunity to hone my illustration skills and offer quite the challenge, in that 4" x 6" is not a huge canvas.

By Emma Virján
 How have you grown and changed as an artist?

I've been spending time with other illustrators and artists, and as a group, we challenge ourselves and hold each other accountable. We also share drawing tips and techniques. With that kind of support, I've become better at my craft and have learned new ways to think, draw and execute illustrations.

What role does community play in supporting your work and dreams?

Emma with fellow Girllustrator Amy Farrier
Community plays a huge, supportive role. I'm fortunate to live in Austin, where there is a fantastic, loving, talented kid lit community. I'm also a member of the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels and The Girllustrators.

Both groups offer encouragement and positive critique, two critical elements in the illustration and writing process.

Drawing and writing are solitary processes so it's always great to have people I trust review what I've done and offer helpful feedback.

Rumor has it that your new website is live! Tell us about that—we can’t wait to take a peek! 

Yes, the new site is live: www.emmavirjan.com

Developing a website is a ton of work, and although I'm experienced in assisting clients with their website development, it's difficult for me to create my own.

I reached out to Adam Norwood for his expertise in site design and management. I'm thrilled with what we've produced and now I have a site that not only showcases my illustration work, but one I can manage myself. Being able to update it on my own is important and will allow me to keep the site fresh.

Get to know Nacho!
You are the designer behind my amazing new Feral Nights (Candlewick, 2013) bookmarks! Could you tell us a little about the creative/business process behind them?

Congrats on Feral Nights, Cyn, and thanks for asking me to design the bookmark. Designing a bookmark is a lot like designing a poster, billboard, brochure, or any other type of marketing collateral - tell the story quickly, efficiently, and with only the most important information and messaging necessary.

In this instance, that meant highlighting the book with an image and a teaser headline, listing the release date, the publisher, any other work you've done and, of course, legal text. The challenge was to make it intriguing. And make it fit on 2"x 8" of real estate.

The book cover is amazing, so it was easy to let that image do most of the work.


Learn more about new releases from Cynthia Leitich Smith.
What were the challenges?

Other than not having a ton of space to work with, the other challenge was to be sure it kept in line with you’re existing image/brand. Keeping the overall design clean and, again, letting the book cover tell the story, is consistent with the collateral you already have out there for your other books.

What was fun about the project?

I enjoyed the challenge of the 2' x 8" space and getting to meet your publicist.

Do you do a lot of promotional design work? Could you tell us about your efforts in this area? 

I do. Promotional design work, just like illustrating and writing for kids, tells a story. As a graphic designer I have a hand in helping my clients promote their product or service, and developing their stories. I've been in the design business for a long time - Reagan was President when I started in this business. I'll let you do the math.

I've had the opportunity to work with national businesses and organizations - Kraft Foods, Save the Children, United Way, as well as local - Texas Classroom Teachers Association, CyrusOne, Sharp Propane, Austin SCBWI and the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels.


Are you interested in working as a designer with children’s-YA, illustrators, and publishers on marketing their books via promotional giveaways? If so, how can interested folks get in touch? 

Yes. The best way for folks to reach me is via email, emma@emmavirjan.com

What do you do when you’re not writing or illustrating?

I enjoy working in my yard, and with this mild, Texas winter, I've been out there a lot. The last few months I've also been busy rearing my Golden Retriever, Her Royal Highness Queen Isabella, AKA Bella. She's seven months old, weighs 40 lbs and loves socks, deer poop, mulch and eating paper as it feeds out of the printer.


Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of three packages of five Feral Nights bookmarks, signed by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Sneak Peek for 2013 by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children. Peek: "...here is my stab at my annual 'sneak peek' list of the poetry titles that are scheduled to be published in 2013, thus far. Of course this is subject to change with additional titles likely as the year rolls along."

Thoughts on Agents by Varian Johnson from Quirk and Quill. Peek: "There is no such things as a 'dream' agent."

Balance is Overrated by Tara Lazar from Emu's Debuts. Peek: "I’m writing this blog post unshowered, still in my jammies."

Diversity 101: the Transgender Perspective by Cris Beam from CBC Diversity. Peek: "...there aren’t just two genders—there are many shades of expression and identity and the earlier we can support kids who experience this, the better. And they do experience it early."

Young Adult Author Corina Vacco: new official author site features biography, bibliography blog, links, contest(s). Vacco is the debut author of My Chemical Mountain (Random House, 2013) which won the Delacorte Prize.

Congratulations to Valiska Gregory, winner of the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant, from SCBWI.

I Want to Write a Novel: Where Do I Start? by Robyn Vavati from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. Peek: "A strong concept suggests a story. It suggests character, plot and theme."

Cover Design 101: The Cover of The Awakening from Lee & Low Books. Peek: "...a couple looked too modern-day urban or romance genre (didn’t quite set themselves apart as futuristic science fiction); another didn’t get the full message of the book across in a way I felt the other concepts did..."

Green Earth Book Award Winners Announced from The Nature Generation. Peek: "...given to authors and illustrators whose books best inspire young readers to appreciate and care for the environment."

Debunking Literary Love by P.J. Hoover from Roots in Myth. Peek: "Step back away from yourself and your perfect relationship for just a second. What are the odds that this guy is the one?"

Review of Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs & the Shaping of American Children's Literature by Leonard Marcus (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008) from Harold Underdown at The Purple Crayon. Peek: "...the story of children's book publishing in the United States from Colonial times to the mid-1990s. It's the only book available on the subject, and it's excellent."

A Path to Publishing: interactive online video chat workshops with editors, agents and authors from literary agent Jill Corcoran.

Celebrate Black History Month

The Brown Bookshelf: 28 Days Later:

This Week at Cynsations
Note: check back tomorrow for an interview with author-illustrator-designer Emma J. Virjan and giveaway of signed Feral Nights bookmarks.

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win book & a signed doodle by the author-illustrator
Now in paperback!

See also New YA in Stores, 2/16-2/22, plus giveaway of The Canticle of Whispers by David Whitley from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.

More Personally 

Happy Launch Week!

Don't miss this preview!
Interview with Cyn on FN
We're celebrating the release of my latest books, Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series), Eternal: Zachary's Story (a graphic novel illustrated by Ming Doyle) and the paperback edition of Diabolical (Book 4 in the Tantalize series), all published by Candlewick Press. 

Feral Nights also is available as an e-book. Vendors that sell Candlewick Press e-books include Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the Sony Reader Store.

Want to see something really amazing? Take a peek at the art inside Eternal: Zachary's Story at Ming's tumblr and Previewsworld.

In additional last weekend, I served as critique faculty for the Austin SCBWI Regional Conference; see my photo report as well as Joy Preble's and Cory Putnam Oakes'.

With Michigan author Shutta Crum & our husbands at Maudie's, Too in Austin

Personal Links

From Greg Leitich Smith
Cynsational Events--San Antonio, Chicago, Madison, Montpelier

Come see me in San Antonio!
Join Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jennifer Ziegler and more at Library Palooza 2013: That Author Thing! will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Brandeis High School in San Antonio.

Teens! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at Curt's Cafe in Evanston, Illinois.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at The Book Stall (811 Elm Street) in Winnetka, Illinois/Chicagoland.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith and YA debut author E.M. Kokie at "An Evening with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28 at Alicia Ashman Library (733 N. Highpoint Road), open to the public and sponsored by SCBWI-Wisconsin. Event will include refreshments and giveaways! See more information.

2013 Novel Writing Retreat for Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers will be March 15 to March 17 at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Peek: "This year's retreat will feature faculty Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lauren Myracle, and Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa."  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Secret Asian Man: Yoshi Kitahara & Feral Nights

Secret Asian Man?
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The Billboard Hot 100 Song “Secret Agent Man” was released in 1966, and, as a child, I probably first picked it up on the radio in the early 1970s.

I misunderstood the words.

I thought the lyric and title was “Secret Asian Man.”

I wondered about the secret Asian man.

Who was he?

What was his secret?

Or was he himself the secret?

Fascinating.

Me at 16
I mostly grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, and my middle-class neighborhood was home to a number of Indian American families and just a few other Asian American families of other national origins.

In junior high, I was good friends with a cute, sweet Chinese American boy who, alas, moved to California and, strange as it seems, he was the last Asian American guy in my life for some years.

(Kansas didn't have that big of an AA population at the time; neither did Oklahoma where I visited family or Colorado where I vacationed.)

I distinctly remember, though, being a teenager, sitting in the front seat of a parked car one night, talking to my then best girlfriend and admitting that I found it hard to imagine ever being attracted to an Asian guy—this from me, who is of a dual heritage and had something of an affirmative action, equal opportunity attitude toward boys.

Doesn’t sound like me, does it?

But at the time media influences were working against Asian men, secret and otherwise.

They were usually much older and poetically wise like Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid” movies. Yes, I’m sure there was a teen Japanese male character or two in the “The Karate Kid, Part II,” however, I also recall him/them being the bad guys (and most fictional martial arts experts as having a rather violent bent, in films that were short on, shall we say, girl appeal?).


As a Gen Xer, the specter of the “Sixteen Candles” character Long Duk Don loomed awkward, gangly, and, as I recall, upside down.

I also was a fan of the romance and soundtrack of the classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” though Mickey Rooney’s Yunioshi was clearly offensive to the point that I recall feeling uncomfortable every time he appeared on my TV screen.

Then in 1991, at a law school party, I glanced across a crowded back lawn at a striking guy who didn’t yet know I existed and decided (despite being on a date with someone else) to introduce myself to him. Four years later, we got married. You know him as children's author Greg Leitich Smith.

Just FYI, he’s Japanese-German American.

Obviously, I'd been wrong. That happens a lot when you're a teenager and when you're an adult, too. You're wrong about all kinds of things. But you can grow as a person and change your mind.

So what lessons—if any—are we to glean from my personal experience?

See also Follow the YA Reader
First, media matters. It absolutely can shape prejudices in kids and teens, in people of all ages, even in those who are predisposed to recognize and fight against them. Persistent media depictions can even overshadow personal experience.

That's why truth and dignity and balance are key, especially for the young. Because those forces can blow away the biases still sometimes fostered by mainstream culture.

I'm certainly not suggesting we forever shelf "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but we should process that part of it as offensive. A blemish (that's part of a larger problem) on a classic film that otherwise has much to commend it.

And we do need to make sure to expose ourselves and each other to more respectful representations.

Does every Asian male character need to be heroic and attractive? Of course not.

But he shouldn't be a caricature either.

At the same time, those of us in publishing need to take care not to be too grown-up or heavy handed or self-congratulatory about the whole thing. Sure, we need books that clearly delineate our cultural diversity and related struggles, but we also need inclusive books--fantasy, realism, and nonfiction with huge kid-teen appeal wherein the focus is on a more universal story and the characters' varied heritage is simply part of who they are--perhaps an important part but not what defines them or qualifies them to be in the book.

That belief has inspired me to, on an ongoing basis, feature in my writing protagonists and significant secondary characters from underrepresented communities like Kieren Morales and Miranda Shen McAllister in the Tantalize series.

In Feral Nights (Book One in the Feral series)(Candlewick, 2013), I introduce readers to a new co-protagonist – Yoshi Kitahara. He's an intentionally sexy leading man, though I'd argue his heart and humor overshadow his good looks.

Yoshi is an intriguing guy.

He has his share of secrets.

I can only hope is appeal is irrefutable.

Cynsational Notes

Giveaway: enter to win signed copies of Feral Nights, Eternal: Zachary's Story and the paperback edition of Diabolical from Cynsations. More chances to win? To enter to win a copy of Feral Nights; see shakefire.com. To enter to win a paperback copy of Diabolical; see Cynthia Leitich Smith Author Interview, Review & Diabolical Giveaway from JeanBookNerd.com.

At last weekend's Austin SCBWI regional conference at St. Edward's University.
The Horn Book says of Feral Nights: "Smith’s blend of supernatural suspense, campy humor, and romantic tension is addictive; allusions to both pop culture ('Thriller,' Monty Python) and literature (The Island of Dr. Moreau, "The Most Dangerous Game") add to the fun. Most satisfying of all, Aimee and especially unassuming, injured Clyde leave their sidekick roles behind to come into their own."

 Publishers Weekly chimes in: "Smith’s fantasy smoothly switches between the three protagonists’ perspectives, while expertly blending the mythical and the modern. The story’s sharp banter and edgy plot make for an entertaining and clever story about loyalty and reconciling differences."

Booklist calls it "sexy, fast-paced" and cheers the "ending that satisfies and should win her many new fans."

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."

Launch Events--San Antonio, Chicago, Madison

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jennifer Ziegler and more at Library Palooza 2013: That Author Thing! will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Brandeis High School in San Antonio.

Teens! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 7 p.m. at Curt's Cafe in Evanston, Illinois.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at The Book Stall (811 Elm Street) in Winnetka, Illinois/Chicagoland.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith and YA debut author E.M. Kokie at "An Evening with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28 at Alicia Ashman Library (733 N. Highpoint Road), open to the public and sponsored by SCBWI-Wisconsin. Event will include refreshments and giveaways!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Follow the (YA) Reader: Feral Nights

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Warning: some spoilers for the Tantalize series.

When I decided to spin off the Tantalize series into the Feral series, it was reader questions that led the way.

Book one (Tantalize (Candlewick/Walker, 2007)) featured an X character named Ruby Kitahara, who presented herself as a wannabe vampire but later turned out to be a werecat in disguise.

The revelation of her species was something of a plot twist in a moment of high-tension, and one gunshot later, she disappeared into the night—never to be seen again.

I received countless letters from teens who wanted to know, “What ever happened to Ruby Kitahara?” When I published my fortuneteller-werecat story “Cat Calls” – first in an anthology called Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionisrts and Other Matters Odd and Magical, edited by Deborah Noyes, and then as a stand-alone, free e-release – the question became more frequent.

Likewise, when passing references to a werebear rug and mounted shifter heads were included in Book two of the Tantalize series, Eternal (Candlewick/Walker, 2009), teens wanted to know how they had been obtained. Was there a black market for shifter heads and hides? Were these poor souls the victims of some malevolent sacrifice?

I was intrigued by these questions. If you build a world, a rich and fascinating one, people will want to know more about it. They’ll want to walk the sidewalks and plant their own gardens and play.

a NYT & Publishers Weekly bestseller
I’m an author who greatly values the conversation of books and has a keen sense of the kind of YA readers that tend to gravitate toward my work.

They tend to be smart – to the degree that it limits my audience a bit – but given my affection for literary devises and illusions, they’re also best suited to catch the various layers suggested in my work.

In addition to being both male and female, they’re diverse in the broadest sense of the word—not only in terms of ethnicity, national origin and orientation, but also region, socio-economic class, and faith. They’re independent, tend toward big dreams, and have a sense of humor. They enjoy a romantic subplot, but they’re looking for more than that--a bigger-picture theme and fresh central question. They like to think.

I would be foolish not to listen to them.

So, I considered those frequent questions that arose and decided to launch myself in the Feral series, the plot kernel of which was: “Whatever happened to Ruby Kitahara?”

It’s time her brother Yoshi and his new friends, Clyde and Aimee, found out.

Cynsational Notes

Cynthia Leitich Smith & Feral Nights: an interview from Joy Preble. More thoughts on the new novel and its main characters, balance (or lack thereof) and the writing life, best Austin dining and other destinations, and much more.

Shop Sanguini's for Tantalize series T-shirts, mugs & more!
Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2013) is now available in North American with international releases to come. Read a sample chapter of Feral Nights from Candlewick Press.

Eternal: Zachary's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle (a graphic novel) and the paperback edition of Diabolical (Book 4 in the Tantalize series) also are now available.

Giveaway: enter to win signed copies of Feral Nights, Eternal: Zachary's Story and the paperback edition of Diabolical from Cynsations. More chances to win? To enter to win a copy of Feral Nights; see shakefire.com. To enter to win a paperback copy of Diabolical; see Cynthia Leitich Smith Author Interview, Review & Diabolical Giveaway from JeanBookNerd.com.

Check out curriculum connections for the Tantalize series from the Texas Library Association. 

Cynsational Reviews

View an interior spread
The Horn Book says of Feral Nights: "Smith’s blend of supernatural suspense, campy humor, and romantic tension is addictive; allusions to both pop culture ('Thriller,' Monty Python) and literature (The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Most Dangerous Game) add to the fun. Most satisfying of all, Aimee and especially unassuming, injured Clyde leave their sidekick roles behind to come into their own."

Publishers Weekly chimes in: "Smith’s fantasy smoothly switches between the three protagonists’ perspectives, while expertly blending the mythical and the modern. The story’s sharp banter and edgy plot make for an entertaining and clever story about loyalty and reconciling differences."

Booklist calls it "sexy, fast-paced" and cheers the "ending that satisfies and should win her many new fans."

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."

Launch Events--San Antonio, Chicago, Madison

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jennifer Ziegler and more at Library Palooza 2013: That Author Thing! will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Brandeis High School in San Antonio.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at The Book Stall (811 Elm Street) in Winnetka, Illinois/Chicagoland.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith and YA debut author E.M. Kokie at "An Evening with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Feb. 28 at Alicia Ashman Library (733 N. Highpoint Road), open to the public and sponsored by SCBWI-Wisconsin. Event will include refreshments and giveaways!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Releases & Giveaways: Feral Nights, Eternal: Zachary's Story & (Paperback Edition of) Diabolical

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations


Hooray! My latest books, Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series), Eternal: Zachary's Story (a graphic novel illustrated by Ming Doyle) and the paperback edition of Diabolical (Book 4 in the Tantalize series), are now available from Candlewick Press. So we'll be celebrating all this week at Cynsations with a related series of posts!

Here's your chance to enter to win signed copies!

Author sponsored; eligibility: North America (international giveaways TBA in conjunction with international release dates)

From the promotional copy of Feral Nights:

Read an excerpt
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's 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

From the promotional copy of Eternal: Zachary's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle (Candlewick, 2013), a Tantalize series graphic novel:


View interior spread
Reckless guardian angel Zachary has an unusual assignment. He’s meant to save the soul of Miranda, high-school theater wannabe turned glamorous royal vampire. Completely devoted to Miranda, Zachary takes his demotion to human form in stride, taking a job as the princess's personal assistant.

Of course, this means he has to balance his soul-saving efforts with planning the Master’s fast-approaching Deathday gala.

Vivid illustrations by Ming Doyle elevate this darkly funny love story to a new dramatic level with bold black-and-white panels.

Cynthia Leitich Smith’s New York Times bestseller is reimagined as a graphic novel seen through the eyes of Zachary, guardian angel.

Eternal: Zachary's Story is told from Zachary's point of view and includes new scenes not seen in the preceding prose novel Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010) as well as scenes previously told from Miranda's point of view.

Read a sample chapter of the prose novel Eternal from Candlewick Press.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

From the promotional copy of Diabolical (paperback edition, previously released in hardcover and e-book format):

Read an excerpt
When “slipped” angel Zachary and his werewolf pal, Kieren, are summoned under suspicious circumstances to a mysterious New England boarding school, they quickly find themselves in a hellish lockdown with an intriguing assortment of secretive, hand-picked “students.”

Plagued by demon dogs, hallucinatory wall decor, a sadistic instructor, and a legendary fire-breathing monster, will they somehow manage to escape? Or will the devil have his due?

Best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize series — including Zachary's girl, Miranda, and Kieren's love, Quincie — along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cynsational Notes

More chances to win? To enter to win a copy of Feral Nights; see shakefire.com. To enter to win a paperback copy of Diabolical; see Cynthia Leitich Smith Author Interview, Review & Diabolical Giveaway from JeanBookNerd.com. You also can enter to win one of three sets of five signed Feral Nights bookmarks here at Cynsations!

Check out curriculum connections for the Tantalize series from the Texas Library Association.

Cynthia Leitich Smith & Feral Nights: an interview from Joy Preble. More thoughts on the new novel and its main characters, balance (or lack thereof) and the writing life, best Austin dining and other destinations, and much more. For more on the story behind the story, see Follow the (YA) Reader and Secret Asian Man: Yoshi Kitahara and Feral Nights.
 
Eternal: Zachary's Story artist Ming Doyle
The Horn Book says of Feral Nights: "Smith’s blend of supernatural suspense, campy humor, and romantic tension is addictive; allusions to both pop culture ('Thriller,' Monty Python) and literature (The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Most Dangerous Game) add to the fun. Most satisfying of all, Aimee and especially unassuming, injured Clyde leave their sidekick roles behind to come into their own."

Publishers Weekly chimes in: "Smith’s fantasy smoothly switches between the three protagonists’ perspectives, while expertly blending the mythical and the modern. The story’s sharp banter and edgy plot make for an entertaining and clever story about loyalty and reconciling differences."

Booklist calls it "sexy, fast-paced" and cheers the "ending that satisfies and should win her many new fans."

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."

Launch Events--San Antonio, Chicago, Madison

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jennifer Ziegler and more at Library Palooza 2013: That Author Thing! will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at Brandeis High School in San Antonio.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at The Book Stall (811 Elm Street) in Winnetka, Illinois/Chicagoland.

Join Cynthia Leitich Smith and YA debut author E.M. Kokie at "An Evening with Cynthia Leitich Smith" from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Feb. 28 at Alicia Ashman Library (733 N. Highpoint Road), open to the public and sponsored by SCBWI-Wisconsin. Event will include refreshments and giveaways!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Event Report: Austin SCBWI Regional Conference

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Last weekend's highlight was "Kick It Up a Notch," the 2013 regional conference of Austin SCBWI.

Authors Katherine Catmull and Greg Leitich Smith at the Friday night reception at the Austin Children's Museum
Agent Erzsi Deak of Hen & Ink Literary Studio
Illustrators Amy Farrier & Emma Virjan (Amy in the chapter's incoming illustrator chair)
Me with my fellow Cynthia -- YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist Cynthia Levinson
VCFA MFA grad Sean Petrie & my former (incredibly talented) student Vanessa Lee
Children's novelist K.A. Holt & Dear Teen Me anthologist E. Kristin Anderson
John Gonzales & Chronicle editor Tamra Tuller
Triple author photo -- Karyn Henley, me & Helen Hemphill
Children's author Bethany Hegedus, incoming ARA Samantha Clark, Sean & Vanessa
Outgoing illustrator chair Mark G. Mitchell, former RA Tim Crow & author Brian Anderson
Award-winning illustrator E.B. Lewis at registration on Saturday morning
Tween author Jo Whittemore, author-illustrator Jeff Crosby, E. Kristin, debut author Nikki Loftin & Greg
Authors Shutta Crum & Lindsey Scheibe
Jeff studies the illustrator portfolios & leaves comments
Authors Jessica Lee Anderson & P.J. Hoover
Bethany & Samantha
Authors P.J., Joy Preble, Cory Putnam Oakes & Jessica
Fresh faces -- illustrator Erin McGuire & Jillian S. Tinsley
Lester Ferguson of NEWAVE Studio & successful auction bidder Gene Brenek
Cynthia & her Peachtree editor Kathy Landwehr
H. Scott Beazley -- soon-to-debut YA novelist with Hyperion/Disney!
First pages panel with Tamra, E.B., Erzsi, literary agents Rubin Pfeffer and John Cusik & Kathy
John Cusik of Greenhouse Literary & illustrator/web guru Erik Kuntz -- kudos to Erik for coordinating gifts for the outgoing chapter leaders!
Glamorous Amy
Jo & outgoing RA Debbie Gonzales
Austin SCBWI founder Meredith Davis won a web-platform critique from me.
Newly agented Donna Bowman Bratton, author Anne Bustard (to whom Eternal: Zachary's Story is dedicated) & me


Cynsational Notes
 
Mine! author Shutta  & illustrator Patrice
Austin illustrator Patrice Barton was presented a Crystal Kite Member Choice Award. Peek: "The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators each year to recognize great books from 15 regional SCBWI divisions around the world. ...the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers. Each member of SCBWI is allowed to vote for their favorite book from a nominated author in their region that was published in the previous calendar year." Last two photos courtesy of Shutta.

The winners of the Betty X Davis Young Writers Award were celebrated, and children's author Liz Garton Scanlon joined me on the local author critique faculty.

National faculty also included editor Neal Porter of Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook.

Incoming RA/author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson formally assumed leadership of the chapter.

Thank you to Austin's own independent bookstore, BookPeople, for handling book sales at the event!

From a fashion perspective, the colors purple, red, black and white appeared to be all the rage.Women embraced black tights, while artistic men were all about red fezzes and bowling shirts.

Don't Tweet That! by Shelli Cornelison from Shelli's Soliloquy. Peek: "...the brevity of Twitter makes it a particularly perilous place for conference presenters."
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