Friday, April 10, 2015

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Q&A with Rita Williams Garcia by Sue Corbett from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I am a product of the Great Migration. My grandmother, my mother, and my father all came north from the south. We did not spend a lot of time home-going, but that didn’t stop me from imagining what it would be like." See also Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth 2015 from Booklist.

New Award for Historical Middle Grade Fiction or Nonfiction from SCBWI. Peek: "A new book award, The Grateful American™ Book Prize, has been established to honor children’s books of fiction and nonfiction that feature the events and the people that shaped the history of the U.S. The Prize was co-founded by author and publisher David Bruce Smith..."

The Troubling Debate of Autism as a Fad by Jessica Mulqueen from Disability in Kidlit. Peek: "The objections to literary critics complaining about autistic characters are obvious. Despite the increase in the number of portrayals, autism is still underrepresented and highly misunderstood. Such remarks are not only misleading, but discriminatory."

2015-2016 Boston Public Library Children's Writer-in-Residency Program from Children's Book Council. Peek: "The Associates of the Boston Public Library is currently accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Children’s Writer-in-Residence fellowship program. The fellowship offers an emerging children’s author a $20,000 stipend and an office at the Boston Public Library to complete his or her work of fiction, nonfiction, dramatic writing, or poetry for young readers."

Capstore Sponsors Residency for Children's Authors and Illustrators by Claire Kirch from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Beginning this summer, Capstone will select one artist annually to participate in a month-long residency at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minn. Fellows will be provided with room and board, as well as space in which to work."

How We Talk (Or Don't Talk) About Diversity When We Read With Our Kids by Matt de la Pena from Brightly. Peek: "We’re mixed kids. Half Mexican, half white. Back then you never found 'mixed' dolls, so my mom would opt for the 'Latino' doll, or, more commonly, the white doll. But here she was, staring down at three African American Cabbage Patch Kids." See also The Color of Character from Nikki Grimes.

Writing Humor: The Lighter Side of Writing Is Heavy Stuff by Michael McDonagh from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: "Without an unexpected outcome or high degree of contrast between the situation and the actor’s response, there is no joke."

Interview: Agent Tina Wexler by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "More stories where the kids babysit or have a job at the DQ or struggle to complete their homework while putting dinner together because both parents (or the remaining parent) work outside the home, overworked, underpaid and put on wonky shifts that aren’t conducive to helping with homework or making a wholesome dinner (or any dinner) at night."

Agent Heather Flaherty of the Bent Agency Defines Voice and Shares Her Wish List from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: " So many famous authors actually wrote anywhere between four and seven books before getting nabbed."

Fallacy: The Primer for Surprise by Ron Estrada from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Story surprises happen not when a reader lacks important information that leads to the correct conclusion about story events, but rather when, through the abundance of misinformation, the reader is forced into wrong conclusions."

Canadian Children's Literature: Damaging to Black People? by Zetta Elliott from Media Diversified. Peek: "In 2011, I began to compile a bibliography on my blog and discovered that since 2000, on average, only three Black-authored books for children were published each year. And, in that time, of the nearly thirty middle grade or young adult novels featuring a Black protagonist, only two depict Black children living in contemporary Canada."

Cynsational Screening Room

Vlog: Austin SCBWI Regional Conference (Day 2) by Ariane Felix from A Writer's Life.



Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015) is Linda in Virginia.

The winners of How to Surprise a Dad by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Lee Wildish (Knopf, 2015) are Becky in Utah, Jane in South Dakota, Rachel in Arizona, Jacqui in Illinois and Vanessa in New Jersey.

This Week at Cynsations
 
More Personally

Jerri Romine and Paige Britt perform a reader's theater at last week's launch of The Lost Track of Time (Scholastic, 2015).

From Sara's Sweets in Austin!
Talking Craft, Diversity & Genre Hopping with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Joy Preble. Peek: "Choose yourself. Don’t wait for the publisher to promote your book to lead title. Don’t wait for your head to be graced with a crown or your slippers to be buried in laurels. Raise that chin and vow to do this..." Note: Thanks to all who shared this link. I'm honored by your support and enthusiasm.

The Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books cheers Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015): "There are even two fantasies, one by Cynthia Leitich Smith about a guardian angel who has fallen in love with a human boy, and another by Katy Moran that owes much to the story of Bluebeard.... The secrets’ often mature content raises the moral question of whether a thing is secret because it’s shameful or shameful because it’s secret, making this a thought- provoking collection."

Thank you to author-illustrator Shelley Ann Jackson for her first-rate service as assistant regional advisor of the Austin chapter of SCBWI. Most appreciated! Now P.J. Hoover takes over the mantle. Lucky us!

Personal Links

Behold my snapdragons!

Cynsational Events

Cynthia will appear from April 14 to April 17 at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Texas Library Association in Austin.

Join Cynthia from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. May 2 at Saratoga Springs Public Library for a celebration in conjunction with Saratoga Reads! at Saratoga Springs, New York. Note: Cynthia will be presenting Jingle Dancer (2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001) and Indian Shoes (2002)(all published by HarperColllins).

Join Cynthia and representatives from We Need Diverse Books for a panel and (free) writing workshop from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 12 at BookPeople in Austin. Register here.

Join Cynthia at 11 a.m. May 30 in conjunction with the YA Book Club at Cedar Park Public Library in Cedar Park, Texas.

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 May 2 at the VCFA Alumni Mini-Residency in Montpelier, Vermont.

Cynthia will speak from June 25 to June 30 on a We Need Diverse Books panel at the 2015 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.

Cynthia will lead a breakout session on "Diversity in Children's and YA Literature" Aug. 22 at East Texas Book Fest at the Harvey Hall Convention Center in Tyler, Texas.

Cynthia will appear Sept. 19 at the Mansfield, Texas Book Festival.

TLA Con Schedule & Latest News!

See more info & RSVP!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Interview: Freelance Editor Francoise Bui

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

How would you describe yourself? A writing coach? Freelance editor? Independent study instructor?

Definitely a freelance editor. I'm not a writing teacher. I love to work on manuscripts that I feel have the potential to be published--ones where my feedback can help a writer shape his/her characters and story.

You're a former Delacorte (Random House) editor, with a history of publishing children's-YA books across age markets and genres. 

Could you tell us more about the insights you gained through this experience?

I love editing books for all ages--picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA novels. The variety keeps things interesting. I find it especially liberating that middle-grade stories do not include romance, something that's largely a must in YA novels. In terms of insights, I guess it's that marvelous storytelling exists in every age group and in all genres.

Of the titles you edited, which stand out in your memory and/or might serve as models of study for writers interested in working with you?

In middle grade:



--Paperboy by Vince Vawter (Delacorte, 2013) received a 2014 Newbery Honor. I'd never encountered a protagonist with a speech impediment. It's told in a memorable first-person voice that makes you feel what it's like to be a stutterer. Plus, there are so many rich plot threads to the boy's coming-of-age story.



--Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (Delacorte, 2010) features seven very different kids in the same third-grade class. Pure fun, very kid-friendly, with a lot of heart. Each character is so well defined. In young adult:



--Orchards by Holly Thompson (Delacorte, 2011) is a gorgeous novel in verse. Beautiful, spare language. It's also a multicultural and multi-generational story.



--The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is a rich family drama, with a mystery at its core. Very textured narrative that is both absorbing and thought-provoking.

All the books I've mentioned stand out for their memorable voice(s), compelling characters, layered storytelling, and emotional pull.

All the books also happen to be examples of realistic fiction, which I have an affinity for. But I love a new twist on a fairy tale (Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (Knopf, 2007)), not edited by me), thrillers (All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab (Delacorte, 2010), which I edited), and all-around page turners (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Knopf, 2006) and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2010), both very different and edited by others).

What kind of writer would be best suited to your working together on a freelance basis?

I prefer to work on a complete manuscript. It's easier for me to assess and give constructive feedback on.

What can you tell us about how you approach a manuscript?

I read with an eye toward sufficient character development (protagonist and secondary cast), plot structure, setting, and overall pacing.

How would you describe your feedback style?

I am honest--what's working, what's not--and I do my best to suggest ways to rethink the weaknesses so that the revision gets the story to the next level. I try to be constructive.

What would be the logistics? How should writers get in touch with you? What would happen from there?

I can be reached at fbui.editor@gmail.com. I'd like a short note, saying whether the manuscript is middle grade or YA and a brief synopsis. Please attach the first chapter so that I get a sense of the story and voice. Then I'll decide whether I can be of help.

My fee depends on page count and what is required: general feedback only; revision letter and possible mark-up of manuscript; a line edit, etc.

I'm happy to answer questions.

Do you have any interest in joining writer conferences or workshops as a critique (or other) faculty member?

Francoise (center) with authors Mari Mancusi (left) and April Lurie (right)
I'd be happy to offer critiques as a guest editor at writers' conferences.

More globally, what should writers consider in choosing a freelance editor?

It's helpful to see what types of books a freelance editor published when employed at a publishing house. A shared sensibility goes a long way.

FYI: I'm about to create a website, so a more comprehensive list of the books I've edited will appear there.

More and more writers are seeking the assistance of a freelance editor before submission or publishing independently. For the latter, the reason is fairly obvious (they want to ensure a professional-level book). But why do you think agented and trade published writers seem more predisposed of late to take this route?

It's something I've encountered in recent years only, but it's becoming more common. Editorial staffs have shrunk and editors are overburdened. Because publishing schedules have to be met, there isn't necessarily the flexibility to work on every manuscript until each one is truly at its best.

A freelance editor can devote the time to multiple rounds of revision. So I guess agented and trade published writers now seek out freelancers to ensure that their manuscripts are strong enough for acquisition, as well as thoroughly polished for reviewers.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for this interview, Cynthia. I look forward to editing some wonderful stories.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Interview: Author Allison Estes & Illustrator Tracy Dockray on Izzy & Oscar

By Allison Estes & Tracy Dockray
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

From the promotion copy of Izzy & Oscar (Jabberwocky/Sourcebooks, 2015):

Have you ever taught an octopus to roll over? It's harder than it looks. 

Discover why octopuses make the best pets in this charming picture book about friendship and embracing individuality!

Izzy has always wanted a pet. So when an adventurous octopus squiggles into town, Izzy decides to keep him. After all, a real pirate captain has to have a mascot. Oscar is not very good at going for walks or playing fetch. (Although he is amazing at hide and seek). And he's definitely not like other pets...

But he is just right for Izzy.

Readers will be tickled by Izzy's attempts to teach Oscar to behave like a dog, a parrot, a pony-and gratified by Izzy's realization that in the end we love others for who they are...eight arms and all!

Visit Sourcebooks' Izzy & Oscar Pinterest page!

Allison Interviews Tracy

AE: To get to be a published author, I had to read a lot and write a lot of course. But I didn’t study it in college, I just sort of went out and did it. 

My first published book was a ghostwriting job I got through a friend who recommended me. I had to write a few sample chapters, but the editor approved and I got the job. It was for a YA action/adventure series called Adventurers, Inc. by Mallory Tarcher (Kensington, 1994). 

So, my question for you is, how did you get your first illustrating job and what was the title?

Tracy Dockray
TD: I was living in the Lower East Side of New York, making puppets and painting murals when I decided that I really wanted to illustrate children’s books. I created what I thought a portfolio should be and my boyfriend pretended he was my agent and showed it to publishers.

A wonderful young editor at Farrar Straus and Giroux saw my portfolio and hired me to do a nonfiction book titled MicroAliens. I said “yes!” and was beside myself with joy… even though I had no idea what a microalien was.

AE: Some books are harder to write than others, and in different ways, and no matter what, I love the process of writing. It’s also a wonderful moment when you hear that a book has been accepted for publication. But the best thing is when I finish a book: I get elated, and full of energy. 

What’s your hardest/best thing in the illustration process?

TD: I run around the brownstone doing the Snoopy happy dance every single time I’m told I have another book I get to do. I guess, the best thing about the illustration process is that I get to do what I love to do for a living! Wow!

It’s not all sun and roses because sometimes an editor or writer has a definite idea of what your illustrations should be. And we are all good at some things and not as perfect at others.

AE: When I am writing, I tune out everything, enter another realm of consciousness, am irritable if interrupted, and feel dreamy and satisfied when I finally emerge. I have heard it called the “flow state.” What is your illustrating state-of-mind?

TD: I love the feeling that happens when doing something enjoyable with concentration. Flow state sounds a little groovy but for lack of a better word we’ll use it.

Whether it’s cooking, illustrating, writing or even hammering nails into wood, it’s moving and thinking and concentrating on accomplishing something. Usually, my kids bring me back to earth a lot quicker. Shocking sometimes, but what're you going to do…?

AE: Right now, what is your favorite book that you have ever illustrated?

TD: My favorite book that I’ve illustrated, so far, is my Lost and Found Pony (Feiwel & Friends, 2011). I absolutely love drawing horses. So much so that I had to write a book about them so I could draw even more of them.

Allison, I know that you’ve written lots of horse books, funny that you and I got together to illustrate one about…. An octopus!?

But I really enjoyed that challenge. Octopi are so much more than I thought they were. It’s been so exciting illustrating your “Izzy and Oscar” although, making sure to get Oscars tentacles just right in the illustrations would mess with my groovy flow… in a big way.

Tracy Interviews Allison

TD: Neil Gaiman wrote, “People who wrote the rules know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not, the rules of what is possible and impossible in art are made by those people who have not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them.” 

Sometimes, I think that not knowing how hard it is to break into the world our craft gave us the courage to try it. In your question to me, you mentioned that you didn’t study writing in school and that you applied yourself after school learning your craft. This is interesting because that is the way I approached illustrating too. 

So, what did you study in school? Have you used it in your work now?

Allison Estes
AE: I loved acting when I was a teenager, and when I went to college I studied Theatre and English. I also competed on the forensics team (which doesn’t have anything to do with crime scene investigation—it’s speech and debate) in the speech and interp events. And somewhere in there I took a broadcast journalism class that I really loved, where I had to write and produce ads for radio.

The performance aspect of the theatre degree has stood me in good stead when I do author appearances, especially for large audiences: I learned how to use physical gestures to help portray characters and how to project!

On the forensics team, I learned to cut a longer piece of literature into a short excerpt, and several tricks that help you be really good at reading aloud—it’s a bit like acting with a book in your hand.

And writing 30-second radio ads is a lot like the way you have to think when you’re writing picture books: short and to the point, but still with some conflict, characters you care about, and emotional interest, so you have to choose your words very carefully!

And I think all the things that fascinate us throughout our lives, all the things we throw ourselves into for the sheer love of it, end up coming through us to shape our craft.

TD: There are always the upsides and down to everything. You’d said you were always so excited to get another writing project to do. So, on the flip side, what was your worst book experience: was it the making of the book, a very difficult time that you were working through while writing, or was it a review that made your feelers droopy?

AE: I wrote a lot of books for series, that I really poured my literary soul into because it was the writing I had to do at the time.

And series by nature are more likely to go out of print, because there are just so many titles and so many series that can fit on the shelves, and your reading audience outgrows them after a while.

So I think when The Short Stirrup Club went out of print was a big downer in my writing career.

TD: They often say that writers are sponges absorbing their experiences and then using them in their writing. Are you that type of writer? Can you cite an example?

AE: I think that’s true, but I don’t think I go around consciously noting things and storing them away to write about later.

It’s more like the stuff soaks in, and then when you go to write something, there it is: the analogy you want, or the idea for a character, or the late afternoon light shining through icy tree limbs…you can’t help but be a sponge, and you can’t help writing about what you’ve absorbed.

TD: As a writer yourself, I was interested in who were your favorite writers to read?

AE: I think I have read thousands of books: truly.

As soon as I learned to read, I was always with a book. My first favorite was Little Black, a Pony, by Walter Farley (Random House, 1961). The second was a little grocery store book called Fawn Baby by Gladys Baker Bond (Whitman, 1966).

As I got older, I read all the Newbery award winners (and I still do), and, really I read anything, everything: magazines, whatever was on my parents’ book shelves, whatever was at the school library…the library in our town had one wall of children’s books, and I’m pretty sure I had signed my name on the check-out card of almost all of them.

Now I still read every night before I fall asleep. For a few years I’ve been trying to catch up on classics I never got around to: I think Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813), David Copperfield (1849), and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862) are some of the most sublime literary inventions ever.

Austen, Dickens, Hugo: no one can write like that anymore. No one.

I’m also a great fan of Kipling and have read nearly everything he wrote. I love Steinbeck. I love short stories; Anthony Doerr’s Memory Wall (Scribner, 2010) is one of my favorite collections.

I could go on and on…but I’ll wrap it up with this: I’m currently reading George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series (I’m on the fifth) and I keep a copy of James Stephens’ Irish Fairy Tales by my bed and never get tired of reading it: it’s some of the most beautiful prose ever written.

TD: I really related to you when I read about your never getting your gray kitten. I always wanted Sea Monkeys. They always looked so amazing in the comic book ads. I never got them as a child but for my 18th birthday my mom finally got me Sea Monkeys! She said she didn’t want me to feel like I’d been denied my dream. Ha! 

When I got them, I was dismayed to discover that they were really just brine shrimp. 

You have a lot of animals in your life now, what is a memorable pet moment for you, happy or sad? Do you regret not having an octopus as a pet?

AE: Well, finally getting a gray kitten was a biggy, of course. Once Santa brought me a hamster. I was thrilled! It was the best Christmas ever! My first pony…my first dog…my first horse…But, happy and sad? Actually, this pet moment will always stay with me:

Last October, the same day my folks left town on vacation, our sweet old lab Stella commenced to dying. Sad as it was, she was ancient—about 105 in human years—and came naturally to the end of a long, happy life.

It is a long, hard, sweaty job to dig a hole in the hard-packed Mississippi dirt big enough to bury an 80-pound dog. No one was around to help except my 11-year-old son, Lucas. And help he did. Together we hacked and chipped and dug through the hard, red clay until we got Stella’s grave dug, and together we laid her down on her favorite old bed and covered her up.

It is no easy thing to look at death. Lucas never faltered. That day my old dog left this world, I saw the little man in my son.

Cynsational Notes

Allison Estes has written more than a dozen books. Izzy & Oscar is her first picture book, and was really different and fun to write!

Some of her other books are The Short Stirrup Club series (ten titles) for middle-grade readers, four titles in the Thoroughbred series (fun because she got to start over in #24 with all new characters), and Paw & Order: Dramatic Investigations by an Animal Cop on the Beat, which is an adult book but fine for animal lovers of all ages and full of happy endings.

After 29 years in New York City, Allison recently moved back to her home town, Oxford, Mississippi. She lives in the country with her son, two grandparents, two dogs, and two horses.

Right now, when she isn’t busy cooking supper, taking care of dogs and horses, teaching writing workshops and driving to soccer, she is working on another picture book, another adult book, and more happy endings.

Tracy Dockray grew up on the plains of West Texas with a love of books and innumerable pets. She moved to New York where she studied fine art and acquired several old motorcycles.

Her career veered from sculpture to puppet making to murals and finally to children’s books. She is ecstatic to have illustrated 30 books including two that she wrote herself.

Tracy now lives in a creaky, cavernous brownstone in Greenwich Village, with a hairless cat, two fuzzy dogs, two children and a very tolerant husband.

She is thrilled to have been able to illustrate Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series and The Mouse and the Motorcycle series since she has a soft spot for them both.

Although Tracy studied Fine Arts in school, she has come to the happy conclusion that drawing pictures for children’s books is the finest art she knows.

Find Tracy at Facebook.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Guest Post: Janet Lee Carey on Tips for Writing Fantasy

Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin, 2015
By Janet Lee Carey
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

So good to be back visiting the multi-talented Cynthia Leitich Smith here on Cynsations with my third book in the Wilde Island trilogy. Cynthia hosted an interview for the first Wilde Island book, Dragon’s Keep (Harcourt, 2007) so this visit brings it full circle.

I thought it would be a good time to look back and share a few things I’ve learned on the way up the twisty fantasy writing road.

Be Flexible

This is my first published trilogy in an ongoing series, but it’s not the only series I began building toward a trilogy.

My third book set in Noor following The Beast of Noor (Atheneum, 2011) and The Dragon’s of Noor (Egmont, 2010) did not go anywhere. Neither did a draft of a book taking place in Zolya following the YA fantasy, Stealing Death (Egmont, 2010).

If you love writing fantasy as much as I do, you have to learn to be flexible. You can’t hold on too tightly. In my case, anyway, I had to learn to let go and create new worlds, places for the stories I was passionate about to unfold. Wilde Island and its sister island Dragon’s Keep has been particularly fruitful. These islands are home to Dragons, fey folk and the indigenous Euit people. There were layers of bitter history already rife in this world before book one began.

Perhaps this line from the Kirkus Reviews review for In the Time of Dragon Moon says it best:

“Humans, dragons and fey coexist on Wilde Island, but this uneasy peace masks a simmering, mutual distrust.” 

There are so many possible plots created by this “simmering mutual distrust” and given time, more stories can grow there.



Keep Your Cuts

So in the above paragraph I’m saying learn to let go.

In this paragraph I’ll say the opposite, learn to hold on.

By the time I’ve revised a book twenty or thirty times, I’ve cut out nearly as many pages as I’ve kept. Some early clippings are never retrieved, but some later cuts are often well polished scenes by the time they’re severed. What to do?

Mine the treasure there! I create a “cuts” file and keep notes on the cuts. Sometimes I use snippets from cuts, finding those little gems and placing them just so in a new scene during the final revision.

And best and most secret of all, I used an entire rescue sequence originally set in one world (Noor) in another world (Zolya). The scene worked beautifully in Stealing Death.

Of course I had to reset it changing context and characters, but the baseline scene depicting a daring rescue from a desert prison turned out to be a great fit. Voila!

Recognize Story Seeds

Finally, I’m learning not to pack books too tightly. I had what amounted to a double ending to In The Time of Dragon Moon. The last chapters felt very powerful and true, but I ended up having to cut them out of the book because they brought in some new elements when the story was essentially over.

I later realized these important scenes were actually seeds for a new book. I was being given a new theme dealing with romantic ties, mothers and children, abandonment, betrayal and renewal. The strong feelings I had for those last chapters were meant to carry me into another full length novel I’m writing now and setting in a new world.

If you write fantasy, I hope you find the pointers helpful. But if you work in other professions you can translate these practices:

  • Be Flexible --a healthy survival technique in any workplace.
  • Keep your Cuts -- take a little time to honor your ideas, and store them in a place you can readily retrieve them. Those of us who think outside the box sometimes need actual storage boxes. Ideas that don’t quite fit the workplace now, might be perfect if introduced at a later time.
  • Recognize Story Seeds --keep abreast of your passions and learn to recognize the inklings of something new forming in you, something teasing you toward an entirely new adventure. 

Whatever your passion or profession, I leave you with a healer’s saying from Uma’s Euit tradition:

~ Ona Loneaih – be you well~


About the Book

Beware the dark moon time when love and murder intertwine

All Uma wants is to become a healer like her father and be accepted by her tribe. But when the mad queen abducts her and takes her north, Uma’s told she must use her healing skills to cure the infertile queen by Dragon Moon, or be burned at the stake. 

Uma soon learns the queen isn’t the only danger she’s up against. A hidden killer out for royal blood slays the royal heir. The murder is made to look like an accident, but Uma, and the king’s nephew Jackrun, sense the darker truth. 

Together, they must use their combined powers to outwit a secret plot to overthrow the Pendragon throne. But are they strong enough to overcome a murderer aided by prophecy and cloaked in magic?



About the Author

Photo of Janet by Heidi Pettit
Janet Lee Carey grew up in the bay area under towering redwoods that whispered secrets in the wind.

When she was a child she dreamed of becoming a mermaid (this never happened). She also dreamed of becoming a published writer (this did happen after many years of rejection).

She is now an award-winning author of nine novels for children and teens. Her Wilde Island Chronicles are ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She won the 2005 Mark Twain Award and was finalist for the Washington State Book Award.

Janet links each new book with a charitable organization empowering youth to read and reach out. She tours the U.S. and abroad presenting at schools, book festivals and conferences for writers, teachers, and librarians.

Janet and her family live near Seattle by a lake where rising morning mist forms into the shape of dragons.

She writes daily with her imperious cat, Uke, seated on her lap. Uke is jealous of the keyboard. If Janet truly understood her place in the world, she would reserve her fingers for the sole purpose of scratching behind Uke’s ear, but humans are very hard to train.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Cover Reveal: Golden Girl by Mari Mancusi

By Mari Mancusi
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The day I learned to snowboard was not the best day of my life. I actually spent most of it on my butt. And the bruises the next day were more than brutal. I was cold, I was frustrated. I was pretty sure anyone who even attempted this sport had to be a masochist and maybe I just needed to cut my losses and go home.

After all, I was already a decent skier. Maybe I should go back to what I already knew was safe.

But I didn’t go back. And the next day got easier. And the next week, easier still. Now, when I do have a chance to go snowboarding (not as often, thanks to now living in Texas!) I have a blast. I’m not Olympic caliber by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s become a sport I’m passionate about and truly love. And the fact that it wasn’t easy? Well, that only makes it better.

I think the same could be said about the writing and publishing industry. Just like snowboarding, it’s not for the faint of heart. You get a lot bruises—to your ego, to your heart, to your sanity—as you try to send books out into the world, only to face disappointment, rejection and frustration. It would be so easy to go back into the lodge. To play it safe and give up on this seemingly unattainable dream.

Mari with Cory Putnam Oakes & Christina Soontornvat
But for those of us who stick with it, who keep writing in the face of rejection, in the face of disappointments, day after day, we do get better.

And while saying it gets easier is a stretch—we do start finding small successes and maybe even large ones. And whether we become multi-published, bestselling, or just remain hobbyists, writing can become a passion and something we truly love.

And the fact that it isn’t easy? That only makes it better.

I’ve done a lot of adult and teen novels, but Golden Girl (Aladdin Mix, January 2016) is my very first middle grade novel and one I’m particularly proud of.

My heroine, Lexi, has dedicated her entire life to snowboarding, hoping to someday achieve Olympic gold. But when a freak accident may put her out of the running for good, she is forced to reexamine her life—and what’s really important to her. It’s a life lesson that applies to everyone—even those who have never set foot on a mountain and I’m so excited to share Lexi’s story with the world.

Cover Reveal

Cold meant snow. Snow meant snowboarding. Snowboarding meant everything.


Lexi Miller--aka "Golden Girl"--is Queen of the ‘Cross--snowboard cross, that is. As the most promising student at the elite ski and snowboard school, Mountain Academy, she is a sure lock for the Olympic-level trial team and has the most promise for a future Olympic gold medal the school has ever seen. 

Until a freak fall during a snowboard-cross competition crushes her dreams and puts her future on hold.

One year after her disastrous fall, Lexi is back at Mountain Academy and attempting a comeback. But everything has changed—her best friend is suddenly friends with her arch-enemy on and off the slopes, and everyone seems to be rooting for her to fail.

Everyone except Logan Conrad that is. Logan is a “staff rat” whose mother works at the school and he believes snowboarding should be for fun—not sponsors. With his help and friendship, Lexi begins to discover a whole new world outside her favorite sport and even a new passion for music.

But Lexi's dad--who just happens to be her coach and lead instructor at Mountain Academy--has strong opinions on his daughter's future. Can Lexi figure out how to balance her dreams with the dreams of her dad's--and find out what exactly happened on that mountain a year ago?

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