Saturday, July 30, 2005

My Name Is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Barbara Kiwak

My Name Is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Barbara Kiwak (Boyds Mills, 2005). Bilal keeps his distance when bullies harass his sister, Ayesha, pulling at her head scarf. Then, hiding his Muslim identity, he tells the class his name is "Bill." Mr. Ali, a teacher, witnesses Bilal's struggle and gives him a book about another Bilal, which inspires him to defend his sister and embrace his identity. Ages 5-up. Read an online Q&A with the author.

My Thoughts

In recent years, I have received many teacher and librarian requests for suggested books with Muslim characters and related themes. Unfortunately, they are still few and far between.

With its realistic art and strong thematic development, My Name Is Bilal is recommended as a springboard for discussions about Muslim Americans and religious prejudice.

Cynsational News & Links

The Lee & Low Books New Voices Award: competition is open to picture book manuscripts no longer than 1,500 words by "writers of color" who are previously unpublished in the picture book. The deadline is October 31. See the publisher site for more information.

Authors Share Marketing Expertise

The book industry reports that 78% of the titles published come from small/self-publishers. With combined annual revenues of less than $50 million, these publishers have limited publicity budgets and their authors are expected to do their own promotion. Where can they turn and learn?

Now authors with books to promote may ask questions of nearly 150 author experts whose specialties run the gamut from romance to foot surgery.

Assembled from the thousands of subscribers to Book Promotion Newsletter, the experts include authors, editors, book reviewers, book coaches, ghostwriters, publicists and publishers.

This free service is hosted by Maureen McMahon, author of romantic suspense novels, Return of the Gulls, Shadows In the Mists and others, and Francine Silverman, author of Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing 2005), a compilation of the best marketing strategies of 325 authors.

The "Ask the Experts" link is on the left side of Maureen’s Moonspinners Writer’s Page. Once at the Expert Site, visitors may ask a book marketing question of any of the experts. Responses will be emailed back to the inquirer within 3-5 working days.

Lemon Drops Press is also hosting a new bulletin board on which visitors may ask book marketing questions. Both registered users and anonymous guests can post questions by clicking on "Marketing with Fran" in the community forum and then on "new topic" on the new page that opens. There are fields for a username, subject, and message, as well as a selection of fonts and emoticons (expressive faces). When finished, the user simply clicks the "submit" button and his or her question is posted. After Fran posts a reply on the forum, the person who asked the question as well as all other visitors to the Lemon Drops Press website will be able to view both the question and the response. "In this way," says host Lana Jordan, "the entire community benefits from the individual questions."

Note: this release was published per the request of Francine Silverman, editor/publisher of The Book Promotion Newsletter, a bi-weekly ezine for authors of all genres, and author of Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing 2005) ; I'm a subscriber to the newsletter.

Cynsational News & Links

The June 2005 Children's Literature Network newsletter suggests that two books recommended on cynsations are getting Newbery buzz. Learn more about Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt, 2005) and Last Dance On Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone (Knopf, 2005); then surf over to see the list. Look for an upcoming interview with Elise Broach on cynsations.

Thanks to Mitali's Fire Escape for the link to cynsations and to Dear Diary and Vaughn Zimmer for their comments on my LJ syndication.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Soft House by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Soft House by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Candlewick, 2005). What to do on a rainy day? Nothing sounds fun. But then Alison Isabelle knows just the thing. With the help of Mr. Cat, the siblings build a soft house out of blankets and cushions, crawl in with a flashlight, and enjoy Mama's peanut-buter-crunch-and-chocolate-chip cookies. "The best." A tender, brother-sister daily life story, told with simple grace and appropriately soft, cozy illustrations. Ages 4-up. Read the thirty-year story behind the book from Jane Yolen.

My Thoughts

I used to play "soft house" myself, though I didn't call it by that name, with Kathryn. She was three years younger and my next-door neighbor when I lived in Grandview, Missouri. Today, Kathryn owns a Montessori school on an island in Seattle, and I still regard her as my unofficial baby sister. Thank you, Jane and Wendy, for bringing back memories of a safe and gentle time.

Cynsational Events

Unfortunately, my husband Greg Leitich Smith and I will be unable to speak at the Houston SCBWI meeting on Monday, August 1 as scheduled. I have laryngitis (again) and an acute sore throat (still). My doctor assures me that my vocal cords will heal if I can only manage to be quiet for the next few days.

In addition, Greg's August 27 signing at Barnes and Noble Round Rock is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Cynsational Links


Interview with Susan Taylor Brown from the "Secrets Of Success" column on author Ellen Jackson's Web site. Susan is "the author of several books for children, including Oliver's Must-Do List (Boyd’s Mills Press, October 2005), Can I Pray With My Eyes Open? (Hyperion, 1999), the forthcoming easy reader Smalls Sails To Freedom (Millbrook, 2006), and the middle grade verse novel Hugging the Rock (Tricycle Press, 2006)."

Jane Yolen: Grande Dame of Children's Literature by Judy Polan of The Jewish Ledger. July 29, 2005.

Trade Book Markets Workshop: author Anastasia Suen teaches students how to sell their manuscripts to the trade market. See also her Educational Book Markets Workshop. Note: Anastasia's blog was briefly canceled, but now it's back.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Evening With The Authors" in Lockhart, Texas

My husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, and I will be featured at "Evening With The Authors," hosted by the Friends of the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas; on October 8.

Other participating authors will include San Antonio's Diane Gonzales Bertrand.

For cynsational readers planning to attend the SCBWI Austin fall conference, note that the Lockhart event will take place later that same day.

Cynsational News

Austin Public (YA) Librarian Michele Gorman is featured in "The Power of Potter: Can the Teenage Wizard Turn a Generation of Halfhearted Readers into Lifelong Bookworms?" by Vicki Hallett from the July 25, 2005 issue of U.S. News & World Report. See page 48. Michele is a rising star among YA librarians and the author of Getting Graphic! Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy with Preteens and Teens (Linworth, 2003).

Home, Sweet Home

I've returned from the 2005 summer residency at the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. I had a wonderful experience and look forward to working with my five students over the course of the fall semester. At the moment, though, I'm also nursing a sore throat and trying to rapidly catch up on my to-dos (see below) after the extended absence from home.

My husband, author Greg Leitich Smith, is off this morning to Barnes and Noble Round Rock to autograph posters in conjunction with his being featured as the Barnes and Noble Austin Author of the Month for August. He'll also be signing at the store August 27. Please mark your calendars! Greg's books include Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003, paperback, 2005) and Tofu and T. rex (Little Brown, July 2005).

Cynsational News & Links

Thanks again to the lovely and serene Tanya Lee Stone for her hospitality in Burlington. Tanya is the author of numerous books, including the soon-to-be-megahit, A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl (Wendy Lamb Books, 2006).

Author Annette Simon has moved from Austin, Texas; to Ponte Verda Beach, Florida. Annette is the illustrator of This Book Is For All Kids, Especially Libby. Libby Died. by Jack Simon (Idea University Press, 2000). She also is the author of Mocking Birdies (Simply Read Books, 2005), a first-rate choice for PreK readers.

Micky Jones writes to recommend Silver Shoes by Caroline Binch (DK, 2001) to readers with a particular interest in interracial family themes in children's literature.

Vermont College MFA student Christopher Maselli's Web site reflects his belief in "using pop culture to reach today's kids with the Truth of God's Word." Read his blog, biography, e-interview, and more. Chris lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

This month's featured book at Carol Otis Hurts' Children's Literature Site is The Breaker Boys by Pat Hughes (FSG, 2004).

I just wrote to send my review snail addy to author and funnyman David Lubar, who's sending me a copy of his latest, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie (Dutton, 2005). FYI, it's CLSCLR PO Box 3255 Austin, TX 78764.

On a query from Oyate, I recommended Tim Tingle, storyteller and author of Walking The Choctaw Road (Cinco Puntos, 2003), to a Houston high school seeking a speaker for November's Native American Heritage Month.

My Web site will be one of those participating in the Secrets of Spence sweepstakes promotion for the fabulous Libba Bray's latest novel, Rebel Angels (Delacorte, August 2005). It will take place next month.

More news to come! But first I must turn to my snail mail. Looks like I have a lot to catch up on. But first, my alpha gray tabby, Mercury Boo, is insisting on my full attention.
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