Friday, November 08, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Discussed among bestsellers
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

A Closer Look at Gender & The New York Times YA Bestsellers List by Kelly Jensen from Stacked. Peek: "I've always suspected that men outnumbered women on the list, and when I've made that claim before, I've been told that's not true. But actually, it's startlingly true." Don't miss part two.

Point of View: Inside/Outside a Character's Head by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "...David Jauss says there are two points of view that allow narrators to be both inside and outside a character: omniscience and indirect interior monologue."

Literary Agents Discuss the Diversity Gap in Publishing from Lee and Low Books. Peek: "...there are some real disconnects that make selling these projects to publishers a little more difficult sometimes. But the audience is there, and growing."

Writing in a Changing World: Craft, Readerships & Social Media: An Interview with Stephanie Vanderslice by Tasha Golden from Ploughshares Literary Magazine. Peek: "Teaching students to function in their own literary culture isn’t just about self-promotion or platform building, either. It’s about owning the fact that you are a citizen of that literary culture." Source: QueryTracker.netBlog. Note: lots of interest here, but the mid-list situation, while always perilous, is perhaps less so in children's-YA than in publishing for adults.

Silent Auction Opportunity: Win an Hour of Editorial Time with Editor Cheryl Klein from Brooklyn Arden. Peek: "Professional book editor will help you with developmental editing, line-editing, copyediting, proofreading, copywriting, query letter or publishing advice -- whatever you and your project require!* Minimum bid $40."

G.I.V.E: 4 Questions Writers Can Use to Define Their Social Media Presence by Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "Before investing time into any social medium, make sure it will work for you in the longterm. That includes matching the type of medium to your goals and inspiration; they all have different strengths and conventions."

Resources and Kid Lit About American Indians by Debbie Reese from School Library Journal. Peek: "Real relationships with American Indians are vital in order to avoid romanticizing or denigrating various groups through stereotypical ideas and characters." See also Tips for Choosing Culturally Appropriate Books & Resources about Native Americans by Dr. Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez from Colorín Colorado.

The Four Types of Character Flaws by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Flaws are especially important as in the character’s weaker moments, they dictate their thoughts, actions and behaviors, leading to poor decisions and mistakes. Talk about fueling great conflict and tension!"

Problems of the Uni-Voice by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I don’t want every smart, observant, wry, misfit teen narrator to sound the same."

Learning to Write Romance from Justine Larbalestier. Peek: "...in a teen romance it’s about the protag getting to know and love themselves, getting the boy or girl is the icing on the cake. Whereas in adult romance getting the boy/girl is the cake." Source: Gwenda Bond.

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaway

Four Giveaways & New YA Lit Releases in Stores from Adventures in YA Publishing.

More Personally

Welcome to Austin, Kidlit Con! I look forward to seeing y'all for tomorrow morning's keynote.

My deepest thanks to Austin SCBWI for instituting the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award in my name. I'm honored and hopeful that this program will help many writers in the years to come.

Learn more about my Tantalize: Kieren's Story comics shoes

Surf over to GregLSBlog for A Dino A Day Strikes Back -- a dinosaur T-shirt celebration of the paperback release of Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2013) and new editions of Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo and Tofu and T.rex (IntoPrint, 2013)(originally published by Little, Brown).

Don't miss the Chronal Engine Activity Kit!

Even More Personally

I'm so saddened to hear that two students, Andrea Maloney and Houston St. John, from Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Kansas have died suddenly in a little over a month.  West is my alma mater, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and SMW community.

A Dino A Day Strikes Back: Day 1

Cynsational Events

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Feral Nights) and P.J. Hoover (Solstice) will sign their new releases from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Barnes & Noble in Round Rock, Texas.

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will speak at the Florida Association for Media in Education Conference Nov. 20 to Nov. 22 in Orlando.

The Craft & Business of Writing: Everything You wanted to Know About Writing, a fundraiser featuring C.C. Hunter, Miranda James and Lori Wilde for the Montgomery County Book Festival, on Nov. 16 at Lone Star College Montgomery Campus in Houston. Fee: $100. Registration deadline: Nov. 10. See more information. Register here.

Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith will teach from June 16 to June 20 at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers in Sandy, Utah. Note: details are still emerging.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Austin SCBWI's Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award

Source: Austin SCBWI

"The Austin SCBWI chapter is proud to introduce the Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award, honoring one of the long-time members of our chapter.

"Cynthia is an inspiration not only as an award-winning and best-selling author, but also as a champion of children's book writers. She hosts the informative and popular Cynsations blog, which is a must-read for anyone in the children's book industry. Cynthia also is an extremely generous member of the Austin kidlit community, offering up her time and knowledge to help fellow writers whenever she can. She's embodies the kind of writer we all try to be.

"The award bearing her name will follow her example and give guidance to up-and-coming writers."

See more information.

Cynsational Notes

The Austin SCBWI community is a tremendous blessing in my life. I'm deeply honored to have this award established in my name. It's my hope that the guidance offered by myself and the future mentors will have a positive impact on many writers to come.

Book Trailer: Picture Day Perfection

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Santat (Abrams, 2013). From the promotional copy: 

It's picture day, and the boy at the center of this charming picture book wants to make sure his picture is perfect. 

It seems as though everything's going wrong for him—he has bedhead, a stained shirt, and a big scowl on his face. 

But when he goes up for his picture, he thinks about his terrible appearance, and he smiles—because he secretly wants his picture to be the worst ever taken! 

But just as he smiles, the photo is snapped and his plan is ruined—the photo looks great. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

New Voice: Marcia Goldman on Lola Goes To Work: A Nine-to-Five Therapy Dog

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Marcia Goldman is the first-time author of Lola Goes To Work: A Nine-To-Five Therapy Dog (Creston Books, 2013). From the promotional copy:

Meet Lola, a little terrier with a big job. Children will identify with the feisty Lola as she struggles going to school, passing tests, and finally achieving her Big Dog dream. 

If Lola can make it in a world of Great Danes and Labradors, so can anybody who's feeling like a runt.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level? What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

When I retired a few years ago from teaching, I was eager to slow down, and I figured I would know what I was supposed to do next when the time came.

One day, I had an epiphany. I love my dog, a five-pound yorkie, I spent 30 years as a special education teacher, and if I combined the two, what better way to legitimize spending all day with my dog?

I knew about therapy dogs, but I didn’t know if only certain breeds were used or how one became trained and qualified.

When I first thought about Lola becoming a therapy dog, I was told that she was probably too little and probably not suitable. I am glad that I didn’t listen, because she is very good at her job.

Lola and I had been visiting a preschool program for children with Autism. She and I would greet the children during circle time, and then I would read to them.

I realized how much more impactful it would be for the children if they heard a story about the dog that was right in front of them! I wanted them to be able to listen to a story about a dog while actually seeing and petting one. I looked online and in bookstores, but I couldn’t find anything that had a dog that looked like Lola.

I also knew that, for children on the spectrum, photographs would be more meaningful than illustrations. I decided to create my own book!

I had never written a story book, nor was I very good with a camera, but the children were my inspiration and Lola was a willing participant with a little help from doggie treats and string cheese.

It started out as a home project with only two copies, one to leave in the classroom and one for me. But with guidance and encouragement, the original plan turned into a wonderful writing adventure for both of us.

CYN NOTE: See Marissa Montes on Creston Books: A New Children's Press is Born.

As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing?

Being a teacher and having spent the last 30 years working with children on the Autism spectrum, my inclination was to tell the story in simple sentences that would resonate not only with children, but with their teachers and parents too. It has a simple and clear story line with only one or two sentences per page and photographs rather than illustrations.

Lola has a lovable face and an indomitable spirit that makes you want to cheer her on, so it seemed natural to let the story be told in her voice.

I also wanted her story to have teachable moments. Lola’s story is of a dog that was told that she was too little to have the job she wanted. It is about having a dream and having to work hard to achieve it. She could have given up, but instead she worked extra hard to prove that she had the right stuff to be a therapy dog, even if she was small.

Lola’s story not only shows how she made her big-dog dreams come true but also how helping others makes you feel good inside. It is a story about believing you can do something, working hard to achieve it, and making a difference.

The teacher in me hopes that it will be a book that parents and teachers want to read to their children and be waiting for the next Lola book and the next story she has to tell.

Check out the curriculum guide, and like Lola on facebook.






Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Guest Post: Ammi-Joan Paquette on An Abundance of Book Releases: How Much Is Too Much?

By Ammi-Joan Paquette
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

It’s no secret that once you step onto the path of publication, a lot of things immediately swing right out of your control: When you sign with an agent. When your book will be published. What your cover looks like. And then there’s the little matter of publication date.

My first book came out in 2009, my second in 2011, and the third in the spring of 2012. Anyone who knows me will testify to my love for (obsession with) balance and a well-paced flow of events. So for all those early years, everything was great.

But when you write across age groups and genres and publishers, as I do, that whole “out of your control” thing? It shifts into overdrive.

And that’s how it happened that I hit 2013: my very own Publication Bonanza Year. I first heard that my YA science novel, Paradox (Random House), which I sold in the summer of 2010, would be released at the end of June 2013. Hooray!

But that was just the beginning. Over the next few months, my book publication schedule unfolded like this (with manuscript sale dates noted for interest):

Paradox (YA) -> sold to Random House August 2010 -> pub date: June 25, 2013
Ghost in the House (PB) -> sold to Candlewick July 2010 -> pub date: July 9, 2013
Rules for Ghosting (MG) -> sold to Walker/Bloomsbury December 2011 -> pub date: July 9, 2013
Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo (PB) -> sold to Clarion January 2012 -> pub date: October 2013

Astute readers will immediately notice the glaringly obvious: Three of my books were being released within a two-week period (over the summer, no less!), and the fourth just three months later.

*cue extreme hyperventilation attack*

Needless to say, the past few months have been a whirlwind of hectic book-related activity. I’m also aware of the fact that an abundance of book releases this year means slim pickings up ahead.

With all that in mind, here are the Top Ten things I’ve learned, joys and challenges alike, over the course of this tumultuous and release-packed season.

Top Ten Facts about a Compressed Release Schedule

1. It’s a tough thing to complain about. (But you will anyway.) 

Whatever your publishing hurdle—getting an agent, getting published, grappling with a less-than-favorite cover, or, yes, a jam-packed release schedule—there is someone on the path who would love to be in your shoes.

It’s a prime example of the much-used “first world problem.” It’s okay to vent/panic/air your concerns, but knowing the right time and place (and audience!) to do so is crucial.

Also? It’s quite likely not as bad as you think; see #2 below.

2. Despite your fears, those raised eyebrows you see are looks of appreciation, not of scorn.

One of my big concerns in my book life is the fear of wearing out the goodwill of my writing friends. The idea of an extended period in the spotlight, or of appearing perhaps overly grabby of the publishing gods’ goodwill, makes me hugely uncomfortable.

But over and over, I’ve been surprised by the generosity of my writing friends and of the community at large.

And that may be my biggest takeaway of this whole experience: This isn’t something to skirt and be ashamed of—celebrate! Revel in it. Which leads us to the next point.

3. Supportive friends are the gift that keeps on giving. Oh yes, they are! 

Putting your words out for the public to do with as they will is an incredibly vulnerable act, and to lift your head from this and to look out at a sea of supportive faces … well, it makes all the difference.

So to all of you who have made time in your busy schedule to come and show your support, you have my undying thanks! (Also: Did I mention that new book event I’ve got scheduled up ahead?)

4. If you look for the balance, it’s not that hard to find. 

So, yes, four books coming out over the course of three months is not the most ideal of timing. And it would be easy to sink under the weight of the possible, the ideal, the unfailingly awesome book-related possibilities.

Instead, I just went into this time deciding ahead of time to pace myself. I will do what I can do, and nothing more. I accept every signing or promo opportunity I can, but I consult my schedule before saying yes.

Overcommitting myself won’t do anybody any good. I have had to sacrifice much of my writing time in favor of promotion—but honestly, I think it’s been a fair trade-off.

5. No matter how busy you are, there’s always room in your day for One More Thing. 

It’s like they say about having kids: If one child already takes all your time, how can two (or three, or four!) take up any more?

Well, that may be debatable, but if there’s one thing this summer has taught me is how very much one can pack in when one needs to. I often start my days early and end late, but doing the important things first and fitting in a task wherever and whenever I can has worked wonders.

6. It’s kind of nice to have “something for everybody”! 

Several months ago, my publication roster included a picture book about fairies, another about mermaids, and a realistic contemporary upper middle-grade set in Thailand.

Suddenly this has been joined by an action-packed YA science fiction thriller; a humorous MG caper with a ghost as main character; a spooky rhyming picture book for the very youngest readers; and the sesquipedalian story of two friends who get into no end of trouble.

If that’s not something for everybody, I don’t know what is

7. Unpleasant reviews are greatly diffused when they’re only part of that year’s offering. 

Here’s an unexpected positive result of having more than one book out in close proximity: When those inevitable less-than-glowing reviews come in, it’s much easier to shrug and move on.

They didn’t like this one? Oh, well. What will they think of the next one? Hey—it’s a starred review!

It’s not that the tough spots are any easier on their own, but there’s just so much more opportunity for the upside to balance out the downside. (Hey—there’s that balance again!)

8. Book promotion is a muscle that grows stronger with use. 

It’s true: Book promotion is not my strong suit. But I figured that if ever there was a time I needed to branch out and get busy on my promo skills, the Four-Book Summer Bonanza was probably it.

I won’t say I’m some kind of self-promotional dynamo (far from it, let’s be honest), but I have been actively venturing into bookstores wherever I happen to be and introducing myself, offering to sign stock, and making myself available for events.

I printed up a flyer listing my new books and keep it in my purse to give to bookstore owners who haven’t heard of my work—and you know what? They are always thrilled to receive it.

Stepping out of my comfort has always paid off.

9. Exhausting the usual forces you to become creative. 

There’s the requisite book launch party, and perhaps a local event here and there. But when you’ve got four books coming out in close succession, you need something to make them stand out. So?

I’ve had to get creative. Okay, maybe this is still an item on my to-do list. I’m not nearly as promotionally creative as I ought to be (see #8 above).

But this concentrated time of setting aside my writing and focusing on the author side of the business has been incredibly helpful. It’s a side I hope to carry with me as I get back into the writing side, to constantly be interacting with the world not just as a writer, but as an author, too.

10. In the end, it’s out of your control. 

Like life, publication is what you make it.

Hopefully, 2013 will turn out to be not the pinnacle of my publishing effort but just another stepping stone to more and greater things in the future.

Will it actually?

I have no idea. All I can do is focus on doing my best every day—whether I’m writing, promoting, agenting, mothering, baking… well, you get the idea.

The future is way out of my control. But what do you want to bet it’s going to be awesome?





Monday, November 04, 2013

Guest Post: Jane Sutton on Writing With Stealth

By Jane Sutton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

In my books for children, I like to entertain and then…sneak in a message.

My dualistic humorous/serious tendencies go way back. I was a social, jocular kid…but privately, I worried about weighty issues like death and whether anyone could really understand how someone else felt.

I was a conscientious student, who made the National Honor Society in my junior year, but pretended to sing into the Candle of Knowledge/microphone during the induction assembly.

As a senior, I was elected Class Comedienne, and in college, elected Phi Beta Kappa.

See what I mean about that dual combo?

But…as an author at a cocktail party, trying to curb her narcissism, said, “Enough about me…Let’s talk about my books…”

And Now, a Word For the Message

Young Jane
Through humorous characters and plots, I try to convey serious messages with stealth.

I work really hard not to hit readers over their heads with lessons. Heavy-handed messages make for snooze-worthy reading, plus readers get messages more readily when they figure them out themselves.

Which Message?

Empathy is #1 on the list in my head for what I want to encourage in children. If people put themselves in others’ shoes, we’d have fewer wars. We would be less apt to distrust people who look, act or think differently than we do. Lawmakers wouldn’t cut funds for hungry people. There would be less road rage. And no one would cut in line at the bakery.

But How to Get the Message Across?

I was working on my latest picture book, about Hanukkah. Besides explaining the meaning of the holiday and displaying its joyful traditions, my self-appointed task was to sneak in a message about the importance of empathy…without being didactic.

“I’ve got it!” I thought. “I’ll write about a gorilla who buys hilariously inappropriate gifts!”

What to Say/What Not to Say

In Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster, illustrated by Andy Rowland (Kar-Ben, 2013), Esther the Gorilla sets out shopping at the last minute. I had fun making her choices silly: a jogging suit for a turtle, a jungle gym kit for a hyena, an elephant joke book for an elephant, and giant socks for a small monkey.

Esther buys each gift because she likes it (elephant joke # 52 makes her fall down laughing; the jogging suit is marked down to $12.99 from $13). The text does not say that Esther hadn’t thought about what her friends would like. Readers can figure that out themselves, especially because the intended recipient of each poorly thought-out gift is revealed gradually.

Similarly, I don’t announce that Esther’s friends are thoughtful in their gift choices. The text and Andy Rowland’s wonderful illustrations show Esther opening exquisitely perfect gifts for a gorilla, e.g., membership in the Coconut of the Month Club. When rueful Esther throws a Hanukkah party, where her friends get to trade for gifts they like, and she is thrilled by the joy she’s generated, I hope readers get the message that it feels really good to be empathetic.

My advice for writers who want to send strong messages is: be furtive. Don’t burst in like a SWAT team with your message. Infiltrate the plot with your message as if you’re an undercover cop.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Tantalize: Kieren's Story Comics Shoes

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations




The shoes are the work of Custom By Kylee, made just for me!

I sent her a pair of Unisa Madison Peep-Toe Wedge Pumps purchased from J.C. Penney.

She did the rest, using art from one of my graphic novels, Tantalize: Kieren's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle and available from Candlewick Press in North America and Walker Books in the U.K.

I'm looking forward to wearing them to YA author events and out and about in Austin.

more information
Custom By Kylee

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