Friday, November 07, 2014

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Why Picture Books Are Important by Kelly Bingham from Picture Book Month. Peek: "Picture books teach us – young and old alike – lessons about ourselves, our world, our feelings, our realities." See also Chris Barton on Why Picture Books Are Important.

You're Such a Character by Jael McHenry from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Even if you do want to tell your readers all about your life, they’re not likely to be interested. You’re going to be selecting details regardless. So it’s not too much of a stretch to give some thought to those details, and what you’re going to emphasize, and what’s going to fall by the wayside."

Is It Ready to Send Out? by James Mihaley from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Obviously it makes sense not to submit a ragged manuscript but in my opinion writers often hold onto their novels far too long before sending them to agents." See also Micro-Level Revision by Kimberley Griffiths Little from Adventures in YA Publishing.

Reading Paired Texts to Increase Student Engagement by Jill Eisenberg from Lee and Low. Peek: "Pairing a news article with a book on a similar topic or theme offers students greater context and a sense of relevancy for the content they are learning, and perhaps a jolt to the creeping apathy over a curriculum students had little input in selecting."

Considerate Craft: Pitching Diverse Characters by Amy from Pub Hub. Peek: "Short answer is it’s up to the writer, and there are lots of choices, including leaving it out of the query. After all, the full complexities of a character or person cannot be summed up in a couple paragraphs."

Interview: Stacy Nyikos and Waggers by Adi Rule from the VCFA Launch Pad. Peek: "Word count helps keep me on task. At 500 words, all of them play double duty. Dialogue reveals plot, and if I choose correctly, also reveals character."

Hope for Non-Artists Submitting Concept Books by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "If you have an opportunity to submit directly to an editor, she likely wouldn’t acquire it until she gets an illustrator to commit."

First Person Point of View: Building Kinship with the Reader by Jim Hill from Project Mayhem. Peek: "First person narratives work by bringing the reader inside a private club for two. Reader and protagonist become confidantes in a shared adventure."

Industry Q&A with FSG Editor Grace Kendall from CBC Diversity. Peek: "If I’m editing a book featuring a culture, heritage, or place that I feel unfamiliar with, I will definitely enlist the help of an expert or someone intimately experienced with the subject matter at hand. I do this most often with nonfiction titles, even if the author might be considered an expert in the field or has had an expert read over their work." See also What? Me Worry? by Charlesbridge Editor Yolanda Scott. Note: includes bibliography of picture books that deal with anxiety.

Patience Or How To Wait and Wait and Wait by Donna Janell Bowman from EMU's Debuts. Peek: "What I have learned is that hovering over the calendar, waiting for a response from an editor, or an impending book release, can be maddening. Forget patience! Just stay busy!"

About Native American Heritage Month, Thanksgiving and Children's-YA Literature by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "In schools across the country, Native peoples appear in the curriculum at specific times of the year. Like this month. November. Thanksgiving. Coincidentally (?), November is Native American Month."

Cynsational Screening Room

The We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo campaign is ongoing -- check it out and signal boost!



Happy Picture Book Month!



Cynsational Giveaways


This Week at Cynsations 
More Personally

K.A. Holt, Salima Alikhan, Lindsey Lane, Anne Bustard, Liz Garton Scanlon, Cynthia Leitich Smith...
celebrating new releases by K.A. and Chris Barton at BookPeople in Austin.
Cheers to Sam Bond on the release of Cousins In Action: Operation Tiger Paw!
Ready for a rockin' take on Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2015), just in from Kirkus Reviews? See:
Look for Feral Pride in the Candlewick Catalog!
"...the wickedly funny, quickly paced style is anchored by the novel's underlying theme of the marginalization of people and its effects, both those obvious ('Our legal rights are slippery,' explains Kayla) and more insidiously subtle (like the wedge driven between Clyde, a werepossum/werelion hybrid, and his human girlfriend, Aimee, because of her father's prejudice). ...witty, smart and moving—sure to satisfy..."
Congratulations to Lee Wind on signing with Danielle Smith of Red Fox Literary and to Danielle for signing Lee!

Personal Links

Arthur Slade's graphic novel Modo: Ember's End is in the house!


  • Why Writers Love Low-Residency MFA Programs
  • Joy Preble on Stuff People Say to Authors
  • Donald Maas on the Meaning of Everything
  • Marion Dane Bauer on Why I Don't Want to Die at Age 75
  • How Going Electronic Changed Dictionaries
  • 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People 
  • The What Ifs that Haunt "Ghostbuster" Ernie Hudson
  • Brief History of Racial and Gender Diversity in Super Hero Movies
  • Transgender Model Lea T Stars in Big Beauty Campaign
  • Joss Whedon on Sexism
  • U.S. Racial Diversity by County
  • Shedd Aquarium Teaches Orphaned Pup How to Be an Otter 


  • Cynsational Events

    Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak on a panel "Where Are the Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci Fi Lit?" from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at YALSA's YA Literature Symposium in Austin.

    Thursday, November 06, 2014

    Guest Post & Giveaway: Kimberley Griffiths Little on Making the Switch: from MG to YA, YA to MG & Back Again

    By Kimberley Griffiths Little
    for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

    Over the last decade I’ve published seven middle-grade novels with Random House and Scholastic, focusing my last four titles on contemporary magical realism stories set in the bayous and swamps of Louisiana with page-turning plots and a lot of heart and family issues.

    But I also write young adult and always have. I’ve just never published one—until now.

    It’s funny because as promotion and publicity has been ramping up for the launch of Forbidden (HarperCollins, 2014), my YA trilogy debut, I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries filled with curiosity about my sudden change from writing middle grade to YA. Which is kind of humorous because, in some ways, it’s just the opposite.

    During the craze of vampires, werewolves, and Harry Potter, I was writing an epic historical set 4,000 years ago with goddess temples, belly dance, and betrothals gone very, very bad.

    When I first started trying to learn the craft of writing back in the DABI: Dark Ages Before the Internet, I took writing classes through the Institute of Children’s Literature, SCBWI, and the Southwest Writers organization in Albuquerque, that offered local classes and some terrific conferences. I experimented with every children’s genre trying to find my niche/voice: picture books, easy readers, chapter books, and novels. Toddlers to high school.

    Back in the DABI, I printed out my short stories and full-length novel projects, and hauled them to the post office with big fat SASE’s. A practice unheard of in today’s fast pace of email and social media with hashtags like #PitchMadness.

    My first writer’s conference was in Santa Fe and sponsored by a local independent children’s bookstore (which is now long extinct). The owner of that bookstore had chutzpah though!

    She went big, and brought in Steven Kellog, Rosemary Wells, Richard Peck, Lois Duncan, and Katherine Paterson. This was before I even knew SCBWI existed!

    (I helped start our state chapter a few years later).

    Rosemary Wells, a well-known author of dozens of picture books, was overwhelmingly generous. After the conferences she let us newbie attendees send her a project and gave feedback—free of charge. When she read a couple of my picture book manuscripts she told me that she believed my true voice was for older readers.

    I took her advice to heart (and agreed with it!) and began focusing exclusively on my stack of currently-drafting novels for 8-12-year-olds. Which finally garnered some success many years later.

    Novels were my first love, and I’d written the first two longhand, typing them up on my college typewriter (DABWP = Dark Ages Before Word Processors).

    I have filing cabinets filled with practice novels.

    Well over 10 years ago I started the research and writing of Forbidden, which has experienced more reincarnated lives than Shirley MacLane.

    The novel received interest from agents as well as a few editors I was developing a relationship with (when I switched agents and was querying new agencies for over a year). But they were skittish about some of the mature themes; abuse, rape, prostitution, and even though they loved the book they weren’t sure where to sell it—or if it was even young adult. Maybe it was adult—but it wasn’t clearly an adult novel, either.

    Then the Vampire/Werewolf/Fairy/Mermaid/Zombie/Harry Potter decade hit.

    My epic ancient historical floundered. Historical fiction got pushed aside, but I kept rewriting the book because I loved it. The almost fantasy-like time period and sensuous belly dance tapestry of the storyline wouldn’t leave me alone.

    I changed the point of view. I added plot. I experimented with twenty different versions of the first chapter. In the middle of all this, I was orphaned three times on my first three novels - and changed agents because she left the business.

    My new agent loved both my middle-grade and my YA novel. We went on submission. Six weeks later, we had a three-book deal with Scholastic for two MG novels and my YA ancient romance.

    Wowza!

    The Famine was over, right?

    The first two middle grade novels came out to great reviews and enjoyed wonderful Scholastic Book Fair reception. I wrote two new proposals. Scholastic bought those. After the third middle grade novel was finished we turned our attention to Forbidden. After a fresh read, my editor confessed that she had forgotten just how sensuous and mature the book was.

    Conference calls with my agent and editor ensued. Verdict: Based on the success of my middle-grade novels in the Scholastic Book Fairs, would I be willing to rewrite the YA and try to make it more middle grade?

    I was flabbergasted. But I’m a pleaser.  

    Okay, I agreed, albeit with trepidation.

    I did the work, but in my heart the story, characters, tone, and theme was for older readers.

    My agent wholeheartedly agreed.

    We discussed the issue of censoring myself. But the story is what it is—and historically accurate.

    My agent agreed again.

    Learn more from Kimberley!
    So what to do? What to do? The next few months were a combination of agony and strategy as we ended up pulling the book from Scholastic and giving them another middle grade in its place. (That book just came out, The Time of the Fireflies (Scholastic, 2014)).

    Once again, Forbidden was an unsold manuscript. The original book deal happened in 2008. It was now the summer of 2011. I rewrote the book again, putting back in all that I had taken out.

    We went on submission. It was nail-biting. I seriously wondered if this book would ever become a real book.

    But miraculously, three weeks later we had a significant pre-empt from HarperCollins for the entire trilogy, not just a single title.

    They loved it just as it was.

    I began my first, tentative draft of this book in early 2003, after researching the time period and the people and culture and history for several years—and selling short stories set in ancient Arabia and Egypt to Cricket Magazine. I’ve watched the ups and down of young adult publishing run the spectrum from Twilight (Little, Brown, 2005) to The Hunger Games (Scholastic, 2008) to The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012).

    As we used to say in the DABI, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

    Is the young adult world ready for an ancient historical with danger, murder, blackmail, and goddess temple prostitution? I’m counting on it!

    After all, there have been rumblings in the publishing world since 2012 that readers are ready for juicy historical novels, and there are authors who are already obliging.

    HarperCollins has designed a most spectacular book. I’m deeply grateful to my editor and my agent who took many risks with me to see that this book stayed “in the game” —and now, hopefully, will thrive.

    Cynsational Giveaway

    Enter to win a signed copy of Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little (HarperCollins, 2014) and Book Club Cards. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Wednesday, November 05, 2014

    Guest Post: Lindsey Lane on How a Picture Book Author-Playwright-Journalist Became a YA Author

    By Lindsey Lane
    for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

    It’s opening night. I am sitting in the audience at the debut of a play I had written.

    I remember thinking as I watched, “This is as much as I know right now.” It wasn’t a negative thought. I simply knew that this play was the culmination of everything I knew up to that moment.

    The next play I wrote would be the sum of more knowledge. I knew that I would learn from each attempt. I knew I would grow every time I came to the page.

    And I did.

    The thing is, in my career so far as a writer, I have come to a lot of different pages: plays, newspaper and magazine stories, a screenplay, a picture book. I used to look at that pathway and say stuff like, ‘Well, you’ve certainly wandered all over the place.’

    Now I look back and I can see that it all made sense. That each page in each genre taught me a bit more. I can see it because in my YA novel--all of those teachers showed up.

    My first playwriting professor Len Berkman used to say you need something new to happen every three inches on the page. This doesn’t mean that a bomb drops at the top of the page, a bigger bomb drops half way down the page and then the annihilating bomb drops at the bottom of the page.

    No, Len was talking about pacing, about dropping breadcrumbs so that the audience is learning and going deeper into the world of the play with you. His measurement was three inches.

    It’s not a bad pace, but I’ve learned to play with it.

    Theater also helped hear the voice of a character. It helped me with dialogue and intention. I love revealing character through what they say. How little. How much. I love hearing their secret desires in their words and silences. Dialogue also moves the pace of your writing along.

    Journalism helped me probe for truth. I loved interviewing people. I loved watching how they would open up. I would watch how they would avoid certain topics.

    From those interviews, I became aware of the lies that certain characters told. We are all tell ourselves lies, some greater than others.

    But when I’m developing a story and a character, I always ask them, “What do you not want people to know? What are you hiding? What are you lying to everyone about?”

    Answering those questions will often lead me to the emotional arc of the book.

    Though I have only had one picture book published, I wrote many more and every time I did, I remember thinking, How can a story with 300-700 words be told so many ways?

    That’s the magic of picture books. You have to pare down your storytelling to the bare minimum and then spill it on to the page in such a way that it is light and fresh and surprising.

    In my mind, picture books are masterworks. Every time I come to the page now I bring a spareness to my storytelling. And a massive respect for verbs. If you get the right verb in a sentence, it tells a story all on its own.

    All of these pages led me to my debut young adult novel Evidence of Things Not Seen (FSG, 2014).

    I hope you can hear the theatre in my first person sections.

    I hope the pacing makes you turn the page and draws you deeper into the story.

    I hope you can see the characters struggle with the truth of their lives in the third person sections.

    And I hope you appreciate the spare quality of the writing and all the spaces that allow the reader to enter in.

    What’s next? Something, for sure. Because no matter what, I am a writer. And the next page will logically turn after this one.

    As always, I’m excited to see what it will be.



    Cynsational Screening Room



    Tuesday, November 04, 2014

    Guest Post: Jane Sutcliffe on The White House is Burning & Bridging a Two-Century Gap

    By Jane Sutcliffe
    for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

    The seed of The White House is Burning: August 24, 1814 (Charlesbridge, 2014) was planted on 9/11.

    Sometime during that day, as we all tried to get a handle on what had happened, a TV reporter compared the terrorist attacks with other national tragedies like Pearl Harbor.

    The burning of Washington was on the list, too, and right away I was intrigued.

    I remembered from some long-ago history class that the British had burned Washington, but that was the extent of my knowledge. So I began the long process of “finding out a little more” that culminated in The White House is Burning.

    For those people who lived through it, the burning of Washington in 1814 was their 9/11. They must have felt the same sick shock I remember so well as they watched first the Capitol, then the White House go up in flames. I wanted my readers to feel it, too.

    I knew some readers would get it immediately. There will always be a certain kind of kid who loves the feeling of being transported by history.

    (Full disclosure here—I was one.)

    But what do you do for the reader who looks at history like a plateful of Brussels sprouts?

    (Full disclosure again—I hate Brussels sprouts.)

    Dolley Madison
    Oh, I knew there was a great story there, with thrilling battle scenes and a last-minute escape. I had a brave heroine in Dolley Madison and a deliciously despicable villain in Admiral Cockburn. I had comic relief in the naïve Private Kennedy, who was so over-confident in his first battle that he brought along his dancing shoes for the party at the White House that would surely follow an American victory.

    And that would be enough for some readers. I would connect with them and they would feel the shame of the American defeat and the tension of Dolley’s narrow escape. They would feel the horror of seeing the Capitol and the White House in flames.

    But I knew there were some who wouldn’t be able to get past—well, to get past the past. They’d take one look at those unsmiling portraits of people long dead and decide that they couldn’t possibly have anything in common.

    My friend calls it MPS Syndrome: male, pale, and stale.

    I had to do more than just transport those readers to 1814. So I decided to leave them right there in the comfort of 2014 and bring the burning of Washington to them instead.

    What if, I asked those readers, they thumbed on their cell phones to see the news that enemy troops had just invaded Washington, D.C.?

    What if cameramen in helicopters captured live images of foreign soldiers marching down Pennsylvania Avenue?

    What if people on the scene tweeted photos of the Capitol and the White House being torched and lighting up the sky for miles?

    What if, instead of Dolley Madison, it was Michelle Obama who had narrowly escaped being captured?

    And I wrote this: “Had it happened in modern times, it would have been called 'breaking news'.”



    Monday, November 03, 2014

    Guest Post & Giveaway: Shirley Parenteau on Ship of Dolls

    By Shirley Parenteau
    for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

    This picture of my then three-year-old granddaughter Michelle inadvertently sparked the idea for Ship of Dolls (Candlewick, 2014) and a forthcoming sequel, Dolls of Hope.

    My son and daughter-in-law had taken Michelle to visit her maternal grandparents in Japan in time for the traditional girl’s day festival of Hintamatsuri.


    I’d just begun writing a series of picture books for Candlewick Press. Michelle’s blend of formal Japanese kimono and getas with American girl exuberance suggested a new picture book.

    Online research whisked me through time and space to a surprising and little-known true event, The Friendship Doll project of 1926.

    The exact number is in question, but that year American children collected an astonishing twelve to thirteen thousand dolls for children in Japan, to create friendship between the countries.

    Five ships found space for the dolls, each in her own packing box, to leave for Japan on Jan. 10, 1927, arriving in time for Hintamatsuri on March 3.

    My hope for a picture book took shape instead as a middle-grade novel featuring a fictional 11-year-old Oregon girl who takes part in the project in hope of reuniting with her mother.

    In 2015, Candlewick Press will publish a second novel telling the story through the eyes of a Japanese girl.

    In the mid-1920s, fathers earned about twenty-five cents an hour so it wouldn’t have been easy to find the money for the 16-inch “Mama” dolls, plus passports and steamship tickets. However, children across America, working with school classes, church groups and clubs, sent more than 12,000 of the dolls to children in Japan.

    After receiving the dolls with celebration and ceremony, Japanese children sent back 58 elegant dolls of gratitude, each about three feet tall, with many accessories to show life in their country.

    All the dolls carried messages of friendship and peace.

    Sadly, a few years later World War II erupted and the dolls became symbols of the enemy. The Japanese government ordered the American dolls destroyed. American museums packed the Japanese dolls into storage and forgot them. A few were sold. Others were lost to natural disasters such as flooding. However, the story has a happy ending.

    The surviving dolls are now on display in both countries.

    Once again, children are exchanging letters of friendship.

    I’m thrilled that the Japanese publisher of translations of my “bears” picture books, beginning with Bears on Chairs, has also purchased Ship of Dolls and Dolls of Hope. He plans to publish in Spring of 2015 to tie the story to the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific. He feels Dolls of Hope will help express to his young readers his company’s wish for world peace and friendship.

    As an author, I can think of nothing more humbling or more gratifying.

    Cynsational Notes

    Shirley says:
    My husband and I recently moved from a three-acre farm to a one level home about a mile away.

    Our calico cat Folly, once a barn stray and then an indoor/outdoor cat, has settled nicely into strictly indoor urban living. The previous owner’s craft table in a sunny room serves as my desk for now.

    Here’s my current writing space and Folly pretending she hasn’t once again walked across the keyboard.

    Cynsational Giveaway

    Enter to win a copy of Ship of Dolls by Shirley Parenteau (Candlewick, 2014). Eligibility: N. America. Publisher sponsored. From the promotional copy:


    It’s 1926, and the one thing eleven-year-old Lexie Lewis wants more than anything is to leave Portland, Oregon, where she has been staying with her strict grandparents, and rejoin her mother, a carefree singer in San Francisco’s speakeasies. But Mama’s new husband doesn’t think a little girl should live with parents who work all night and sleep all day. 

    Meanwhile, Lexie’s class has been raising money to ship a doll to the children of Japan in a friendship exchange, and when Lexie learns that the girl who writes the best letter to accompany the doll will be sent to the farewell ceremony in San Francisco, she knows she just has to be the winner. But what if a jealous classmate and Lexie’s own small lies to her grandmother manage to derail her plans? 

    Inspired by a project organized by teacher-missionary Sidney Gulick, in which U.S. children sent more than 12,000 Friendship Dolls to Japan in hopes of avoiding a future war, Shirley Parenteau’s engaging story has sure appeal for young readers who enjoy historical fiction, and for doll lovers of all ages.

    Can a ship carrying Friendship Dolls to Japan be Lexie’s ticket to see her fun-loving mother again? A heartwarming historical novel inspired by a little-known true event.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Sunday, November 02, 2014

    Event Report: Texas Book Festival

    By Cynthia Leitich Smith
    for Cynsations

    About The Texas Book Festival: "...celebrates authors and their contributions to the culture of literacy, ideas, and imagination."

    Author Michelle Knudsen and moderator Sean Petrie in the green room.
    TBF committee member Carmen Oliver and moderator Anne Bustard in the green room.
    Tim Tingle, Diane Gonzales Bertrand, Jacqueline Woodson, Pat Mora, Andrea Davis Pinkney and Don Tate
    With author Kelly Bennett in the Writers' League of Texas booth
    With authors Greg Leitich Smith, Varsha Bajaj and Trent Reedy at the author party.
    With authors Monica Brown and Cynthia Bond at the author party.
    With author-illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores at the author party.
    See another Texas Book Festival photo report by Greg Leitich Smith from GregLSBlog.
    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...