Saturday, March 03, 2007

Finalists for the LA Times Prize

Finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize are:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick);

Tyrell by Coe Booth (Scholastic);

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Dutton)(author interview);

Just in Case by Meg Rosoff (Wendy Lamb/Random House);

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (Dial)(author interview).

Source: The Goddess of YA Literature.

SCBWI Announces 2006 Golden Kite Awards

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has announced its 2006 Golden Kite Awards and Honees. The Golden Kite is the only award presented to children’s book authors and artists by their peers.

Gold Kite Award Winners

Fiction

Firegirl by Tony Abbott (Little Brown)
Editor: Alvina Ling

Nonfiction

The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
Editor: Arthur A. Levine

Picture Book Text

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers (Holiday House)
Editor: Regina Griffin

Picture Book Illustration

Not Afraid of Dogs, illustrated by Larry Day, written by Susanna Pitzer (Walker)
Editor: Emily Easton
Designer: Nicole Gastonguay

Golden Kite Honor Recipients

Fiction

Wings by William Loizeaux (FSG)

Nonfiction

Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh (Houghton Mifflin)

Picture Book Text

Dear Mr. Rosenwald by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Scholastic)

Picture Book Illustration

Hippo! No, Rhino! illustrated and written by Jeff Newman (Little Brown)

The Golden Kite Awards, given annually to recognize excellence in children's literature, grant cash prizes of $2,500 to author and illustrator winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Book Text, and Picture Book Illustration.

Authors and illustrators will receive an expense-paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the award ceremony at the Golden Kite Luncheon at SCBWI's Summer Conference in August. To promote the award winners, the SCBWI will produce a half hour film featuring the four winning books and their creators. The film, which will include interviews with winning authors and illustrators, will be distributed on DVD to 1,000 outlets for promotion, including chain bookstores, independent bookstores, reviewers, and television, radio and print media. SCBWI will also work with publishers to see that Golden Kite recipient books are promoted across all media.

The SCBWI also recognizes the work of editors and art directors who play pivotal roles in shaping the Golden Kite-winning books. Editors of winning books will receive $1,000, and for the winning book in the Picture Book Illustration category, an additional $1,000 will be given to the book's art director/designer.

The Golden Kite Awards are given each year to the most outstanding children's books published during the previous year, and written or illustrated by members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Four panels of three judges each (one panel for each category, consisting of author or illustrator members of SCBWI whose own works are that of the category being judged), award the titles they feel exhibit excellence in writing or illustration, and that genuinely appeal to the interests and concerns of children. An Honor Book plaque is awarded in each category as well. A certificate of acknowledgment is presented to the author of the picture book illustration award book and the illustrator of the picture book text award book.

About the 2006 Golden Kite Award Recipients

Tony Abbott, author of Firegirl, is the author of more than sixty children's books, including the popular series The Secrets of Droon.

The Adventures of Marco Polo marks Russell Freedman's sixth Golden Kite Award in the category of Nonfiction; he won his first Golden Kite Award in 1991 for The Wright Brothers.

Walter Dean Myers, author of the Golden Kite Picture Book Text award winning Jazz has received multiple Coretta Scott King Awards and Newbery Honors, and the Michael L. Printz award in 2000 for Monster.

Larry Day, illustrator of Not Afraid of Dogs, has illustrated several picture books while working in the advertising industry creating storyboards for clients like Hallmark and Disney.

About the 2006 Golden Kite Honor Recipients

William Loizeau is the author of stories, essays, and two books for adults; Wings is his first book for childern.

Catherine Thimmesh, author of the Nonfiction Honor recipient Team Moon: How 4000,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon is the author of several books for children including the New York Time Notable Book Madame President: The Extraordinary, True, (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics.

Carole Boston Weatherford, author of the Picture Book Text honor recipient Dear Mr. Rosenwald, is the author of many children's books including the Caldecott Honor recipient Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.

Jeff Newman, illustrator and author of Hippo! No, Rhino! is also the author and illustrator of Reginald.

General Information

Founded in 1971, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers' and illustrators' organizations, with over 20,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children's literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia.

The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children's book authors and leaders in the world of children's literature. Several of the most prestigious children's literature professionals sit on the SCBWI Board of Directors.

The Golden Kite Awards will be presented to the winners on Sunday, August 5th at the Golden Kite Luncheon. This luncheon is part of the SCBWI's 36th Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, taking place at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel August 3-6, 2007.

A list of previous Golden Kite Award winners and honor books is available on the SCBWI’s website: www.scbwi.org.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cynsational News & Links

I found out yesterday that my new novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), which was released Feb. 13, is already in its third printing. Thanks to all for your support!

Thanks also to A Fuse #8 Production and Buried in the Slushpile for the kind words about my recent article "How to Throw a Book Launch Party" at Create/Relate.

Here's the latest:

"An Appetizing Gothic Fantasy:" a review of Tantalize by Norah Piehl of BookPage. She cheers: "Quincie's sarcastic narration and take-charge attitude, will appeal to fans—both teens and adults—of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. ...readers will certainly be licking their lips at the end of Tantalize, their appetites whetted for Smith's next enticing adventure." Read the whole review.

In other news, I have launched a new MySpace! For now, I have selected the sunset lake design because it reminds me of Austin. Although there will be some crossposting, my plan is to emphasize YA lit on this site--both my own and books by other authors. Please surf by to check it out and consider adding me as a friend.

From Vermont

Union Institute, the current owner of Vermont College, is selling its three MFA programs (including the one in Writing for Children and Young Adults), the campus, and various buildings to the newly-formed Vermont College of the Fine Arts. See the article in the Barr Montpelier Times-Argus. Read interviews with past faculty chair Kathi Appelt and present chair Sharon Darrow.

More News & Links

"Building with Plot Blocks" by Jan Fields from the Institute of Children's Literature.

Learn more about Cecil Castellucci's graphic novel The Plain Janes, illustrated by Jim Rugg (DC Comics/Minx, May 2007). More soon on her fierce and amazing new prose novel, Beige (Candlewick, 2007); read a Cynsations interview with Cecil.

The Den of Shadows: author site by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.

"Every picture tells a story in Selznick's 'Invention'" by Heidi Henneman from BookPage. See also "Recent graphic novels explore strange new worlds" by Becky Ohlsen from BookPage.

BookPage also offers reviews of the children's books Skyscaper by by Lynn Curlee (Atheneum), The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Atheneum), Runaround by Helen Hemphill (Front Street), Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam), and A Dog Called Grk by Joshua Doder (Delacorte). In addition to Tantalize, featured YA titles include Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking), The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti (Simon & Schuster), and Harmless by Dana Reinhardt (Wendy Lamb/Random House).

Congratulations to Brent Hartinger on the glowing review by USA Today of his new release, Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (HarperCollins, 2007). Read a recent Cynsations interview with Brent.

"Increasing the Odds That the Book Will Be Read:" an exclusive Authorlink interview with Alan Gratz, author of Samurai Shortstop (Dial, 2006), by Susan VanHecke (March 2007).

Melissa Marr, author of Wicked Lovely (HarperCollins, 2007), visits the YA Authors Cafe. Read her interview and ask her a question. Visit Melissa's site, and learn more about Wicked Lovely.

Newly featured authors and illustrators at Children's Literature include Cynthia Kadohata, Walter Dean Myers, and Susan L. Roth. Read a Cynsations interview with Cynthia.

"Rising Star - Sy Montgomery" from the Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books. Here's a peek: "Sy Montgomery's enthusiastic and skilled nonfiction work first came to the attention of the Bulletin with The Snake Scientist [Houghton Mifflin, 1999], a look at the work of zoologist Bob Mason, who studies, among other subjects, the red-sided garter snakes that inundate Manitoba."

"Writing a Memoir: Should You Do It?" by Lisa Silverman at Absolute Write.

YA Authors Create Online Book Salon for Gutsy Girls

SEATTLE, March 1--In honor of Women's History Month, four young adult authors are launching readergirlz, a new online book salon celebrating gutsy girls in life and literature.

Starting on March 1, readergirlz founders Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, and Justina Chen Headley will unveil a monthly book selection, featuring young adult novels with gutsy female characters.

More than just a book club, readergirlz aims to encourage teen girls to read and reach out with community service projects related to each featured novel. As well, readergirlz will host MySpace discussions with each book's author, include author interviews, and provide book party ideas, including playlists, menus, and decorations. All content will be available through the readergirlz website (www.readergirlz.com), MySpace (www.myspace.com/readergirlz and groups.myspace.com/readergirlz), and Live Journal (readergirlz.livejournal.com).

"We want girls to be the best women they can be," explains Headley. The inspiration for readergirlz came from Headley's book tour last spring where she made a special effort to visit urban communities that couldn't otherwise bring in authors. Headley spoke at November's NCTE conference in Nashville and also attended a rousing session about teen literacy led by three librarians (Lois Buckman, Bonnie Kunzel, and Teri Lesesne). Inspired, Headley recruited three critically-acclaimed novelists—Calhoun, Carey, and Grover—to start readergirlz as a way to talk to teens about reading and writing.

"Readergirlz is a way I can connect wonderful books to girls I'd never be able to meet otherwise," agrees Calhoun.

The founders hope readergirlz will change the way girls experience literature and see themselves. "I want to challenge girls to go for their dreams," says Carey. "I learned how brave girls can be through books, and I want to share the power of literature with girls, wherever they are."

Using MySpace and a website, the readergirlz founders, dubbed the divas, plan to provide a rich literary experience for teen girls online. "We already have over 750 friends on MySpace. From surveys to playlists to author interviews, we'll provide young adult readers with fun, meaningful content," explains Grover. "Why not harness the power of MySpace to get girls to think critically about what they want to be in the future?"

Each book selection will dovetail to a topic, identified by the readergirlz divas and prominent children's lit bloggers as topics teen girls should know about in this millennium.

The first topic is Tolerance, a theme explored in the kick-off book selection for readergirlz, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies). As prominent blogger, Jennifer Robinson of http://jkrbooks.typepad.com, noted, teens "need to know that when they are mean or intolerant to other people, they're doing damage."

In conjunction with the first novel, teen girls will be encouraged to visit www.tolerance.org to learn how to safely stop bullying and to apply for one of the organization’s Mix It Up grants to break social and racial barriers within their schools.

About the Readergirlz Founders

Dia Calhoun is the winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature, and author of five young adult fantasies, including Avielle of Rhia and The Phoenix Dance.

Janet Lee Carey won the 2005 Mark Twain Award for Wenny Has Wings, and her forthcoming young adult fantasy, Dragon's Keep, has already received a starred review in Booklist.

Lorie Ann Grover is a former ballerina-turned-verse-novelist whose acclaimed work includes On Pointe and Loose Threads, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age.

Justina Chen Headley sold her first two novels at auction, including her debut, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies), named Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best.

For more information about readergirlz, please visit their website (www.readergirlz.com), MySpace (www.myspace.com/readergirlz and groups.myspace.com/readergirlz), and Live Journal (readergirlz.livejournal.com).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Author Interview: Deborah Lynn Jacobs on Powers

Deborah Lynn Jacobs is the author of Powers, (Roaring Brook, 2006), and The Same Difference (Royal Fireworks Press, 2000) Her next book, Choices, will be released by Roaring Brook Press in fall, 2007. Visit her LJ and MySpace.

What about the writing life first called to you? Were you quick to answer or did time pass by?

I was eight when I wrote my first novel. It was a space opera type book, about two kids who stowed away on a Federation starship. However, I floundered in the middle of the novel, which is something that still happens to me, and didn't finish it. I wish I still had the book, but it was disposed of years ago.

In high school, I was a reporter and later editor of our school newspaper. I joined the newspaper to make friends, but found I liked the writing as well.

In my professional life as a counselor, I found ways to bring writing into my job--a departmental newsletter, a back-to-school guide for adults, research projects. But it wasn't until I left my full-time job and moved to a small town in northwestern Ontario that I got back to writing--newspaper features, magazine articles, and my first attempts at writing a novel.

What made you decide to write for young adults?

My first novel was an adult science fiction novel. Really awful writing, now that I look back on it. After two rejections, I stuffed in a drawer where it belonged.

I realized that the issues people face in their late teens were far more interesting to me. It's such a wonderful time of life, and so incredibly exciting to be on the verge of adulthood. Suddenly, the decisions you make--who to date, what school to go to, what career to choose--become life decisions. Sure, you can go back and change your mind, but only to some extent. The decisions you make as an eighteen-year-old have a lasting effect on your life. It's that whole "road not taken" thing, and I find it fascinating.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Sprints? Hmm...not so many. It was pretty much a slow and steady thing. Write, rewrite, submit, revise--the usual. There were times where I wrote very little because of the necessity of making a living!

Stumbles along the way? A few. I rewrote Powers a gazillion times. I wrote it as a stand alone book, then rewrote it as the first two books of a series, then collapsed the two books into one. At that point, Deborah Brodie of Roaring Brook read it. She gave me editorial advice, the most difficult of which was "cut about a hundred pages." Gulp. So, I cut a third of the book, slashed a few subplots, changed the ending, and resubmitted the book. Thank goodness she accepted it!

Congratulations on the publication of Powers (Roaring Brook, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?


It actually evolved from the first book I wrote for kids. The Green Stone. See, this kid finds a green stone, which is actually a meteorite, and it gives him special powers--the ability to fly, to talk to his dog through telepathy, etc. (Pretty hashed-over premise, if you ask me.)

That book evolved into A Power of Our Own. This guy, and his autistic sister, find this meteorite (it's green) and that allows them to talk to alien dragon guys through telepathy. Only, the alien dragon guys are bad guys, who collect kids from many planets and put them in a zoo. The kids, from all over the universe, find their latent powers are unlocked by the dragon's stone and each kid develops a power of their own and, naturally, they defeat the dragon alien bad guys. (Don't laugh--this could happen!)

A kind editor told me she liked the autistic-sister angle, but the dragons really threw her. So, A Power of Our Own became two books: one about a girl with an autistic sister (The Same Difference (Royal Fireworks, 2000)) and a book about two teens with psychic powers (Powers (Roaring Brook, 2006)).

The initial inspiration, though, for all of this, was my sense of awe about things that are mysterious, things we can't explain in the usual way. I'm not saying psychic powers are real, but I'm not saying they aren't real either!

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Ten years? Twelve?

I started writing Powers in 1994. I had an idea that I wanted this book to be about how developing special powers would affect two people on a personal level. I didn't want the book to be about defeating some villain, or saving the world. Powers is a much more intimate exploration than that, about the power struggle between two people, and the power struggle within each of them.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The two voices. At first, they both sounded like "me." It took some time, some advice from my critique groups and my first readers (my kids and their unsuspecting friends!) to make the voices distinct.

The psychological (and psychic) relationship between Gwen and Adrian is fascinating. How did you manage their tug-of-war?

I managed it slowly. At first, Adrian was such a nice guy. So sweet and understanding. Gwen was the spunky, sarcastic one. But you know what? It didn't work. My critique buddies, and my first readers, read early versions and said Adrian sounded like a girl. Sigh.

I needed more conflict, more friction. In early drafts, Adrian and Gwen worked together to solve crimes and save people. No friction. No sparks. No fireworks.

I put the book away for months, or maybe a year at a time, while I worked on other books. Then I realized that what I wanted to write wasn't a book about two people using their powers for good. It was far more interesting to have them at each other's throats, manipulating each other and using each other.

Plus, it was a heck of a lot more fun to write!

I worked the tug-of-war the usual way. Put your character in a scene, figure out what they want the most, and then thwart them and send them further from their goal. Except, writing in the two voices, I worked each scene in this way: put both characters in the scene, give them goals which are opposites, thwart them both, and move them both further from their goals.

I took a lot of long walks, with a little notebook. I'd ask each character, "What do you want most? What will devastate you most if you don't get it?

I also flowcharted the scenes, using colored pens, to make sure the conflict was steady, and that no one character took over the story for too long. So, part of writing the book was technical, rather than artistic.

Still, it wasn't sharp enough. Not until I changed Adrian's voice to first person, present tense. Wow. All of a sudden, I could hear him. Could see him. Even dreamed about him.

What advice do you have for beginning novelists?

Never give up. Don't lose faith in yourself. I truly believe success in writing is 99% perseverance and learning the craft.

What do you do when you're not writing?

Gardening, especially my wild perennial garden.

Cooking. I use a lot of garlic, onion and hot spices, so beware!

Bird watching, camping, canoeing, hiking, walking-generally communing with nature.

Oh, and reading young adult literature, of course.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Choices, in the fall of 2007. I'd tell you about it, but I can't figure out how to do that without totally giving away the plot! I'd call it speculative fiction, with a twisty plot and a few surprises!

Interviews with Author Cynthia Leitich Smith and Agents Nathan Bransford and Dan Lazar from Alma Fullerton

Author Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith from Alma Fullerton. Here's taste: "Writing fiction seemed a tremendous indulgence against great odds. It was something I'd do someday. But it slowly occurred to me that many people 'someday' their way through their entire lives. The only way to make dreams a reality is to commit to them fully." Read the whole interview.

Agent Interview: Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown from Alma Fullerton. Nathan is looking to see "
Anything original with a great plot." Read the whole interview.

Agent Interview: Dan Lazar of Writers House from Alma Fullerton. Of today's children's market, Dan says: "
From what I can tell, it's become more and more of a 'business' and less and less of a quaint 'club.' Which is not necessarily a bad or good thing, but it's a dynamic that affects how we all work." Read the whole inteview.

Writers' League of Texas Calls for Teddy Award Entries

The Writers' League of Texas calls for entries for its Teddy Book Awards in the "long works" and "short works" categories. The awards "were established to honor outstanding published books written by Writers' League of Texas members."

The entry fee is $25 per submission. Books published between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2006 are eligible. Download the 2007 entry form (PDF). The deadline is June 29, and there is a $1,000 cash prize and trophy in each category. Members may join the League at the time of their entry.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2007.

Last year, in the short works (picture book) division, the finalists were The Pledge of Allegiance by Barbara Clack (Texas A & M University Press Consortium, 2005) and Mocking Birdies by Annette Simon (Simply Read Books, 2005).

The winner was Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cinco Puntos, 2006)(recommendation).

In the long works (middle grade/YA) division, the finalists were Tofu and T. rex by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2005)(author interview) and Czar of Alaska: The Cross of Charlemagne by Richard Trout (Pelican, 2005).

The winner was Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Heather Hepler, co-authored by Brad Barkley (Dutton, 2006)(co-authors interview).

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Author Interview: Marian Hale on Dark Water Rising

Marian Hale on Marian Hale: "I can't remember a time when I didn't love books, but it wasn't until I was twelve and instructed to write a short story for my sixth grade English class that I first became aware that I loved writing, too. However, other than the occasional attempt at poetry over the years, I never pursued it. I suppose a lack of confidence had a lot to do with it. The path to becoming a successful author seemed nebulous and unachievable.

"I married the love of my life right out of business college, and some years later, I went into custom home design. Designing was a wonderfully creative outlet for me at the time. I enjoyed manipulating space to suit each client and the drafting of blueprints, but I especially loved that I could do most all of it at home with my three children close by.

"Years later I finally decided to give writing a real try. I wrote short stories for children and adults and eventually entered them in contests. When my efforts began to place and win prizes, I moved on to my first mid-grade novel, a failure on a professional level, but a huge success in exposing my strengths and weaknesses. It also reinforced my love for children's literature--historical fiction in particular--and I've never looked back."

What about the writing life first called to you?

I'm not so sure I was called to writing. I probably thought so during those early attempts, but it didn't take long to realize that the choice was never mine to make. It's just who I am, like being born with brown hair or blue eyes. Now, I can't imagine not writing.

What made you decide to write for young readers?

It was just fun! I especially loved historical fiction, the way it allowed me to step back in time and experience intriguing eras and events as though I were there, seeing it all through the eyes of a teen or preteen. But I suppose what appealed to me most about writing for young readers was the opportunity to tell stories that would help my own children and grandchildren form a more intimate bond with the past, to ask the questions that would help them recognize the eternal connection we all have with older generations all over the world.

Congratulations on the publication of Dark Water Rising (Henry Holt,2006)! What was your initial inspiration for this story?

Thank you! I first considered this project some years ago when my husband came home from work with a tattered book found in an old abandoned house about to be torn down. It was a full account of the 1900 Galveston Storm, written soon after it happened.

I'd read many articles over the years about the devastating Texas hurricane that took more than 8,000 lives, but never one written while wounds were still tender, while wind and floodwaters still haunted dreams.

I wanted to read more, to search out the multitude of hundred-year-old accounts and photographs, all of which were so vivid with intimate detail, so achingly real and painful that I felt as though I'd experienced this turn-of-the-century city and disastrous storm myself. It was this window to the past that brought me to write Dark Water Rising (Henry Holt, 2006), and in so doing, I wanted to honor the overwhelming loss and Herculean efforts to rebuild the great city of Galveston. I was able to incorporate hundreds of documented details into my story and was very pleased when Reka Simonsen, my editor at Henry Holt, encouraged me to include some spell-binding photos of the aftermath in an author’s note.

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

The inspiration for Dark Water Rising came in 2003, almost a full year before I could even think of starting a new project. When I could finally clear my desk, I spent the next six months researching and cataloging the details I wanted to use. I walked Galveston's streets, studied the nineteenth century architecture, visited the Rosenberg Library to read transcripts of oral interviews, toured homes that survived the great storm, sought out where the two-story ridge of debris left by wind driven water had once encircled the city, and walked along the seawall where Saint Mary's Orphanage had once stood, envisioning the two dormitories that had housed ten Sisters and more than ninety children who perished that day. It was a poignant and inspiring journey. I then spent the following six months trying to do justice to all those who had endured the deadliest storm to ever hit our country.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

One of the most difficult challenges was choosing the best location in the city for my characters to experience the storm. I needed an actual home and surviving family, one that would allow me to show the devastation as fully as possible. I finally realized that I'd have to map the entire city, block by block, and key it to names and personal accounts before I could make that decision. The map also helped me locate major businesses, schools and churches, and gave me the confidence to write as though I'd walked through those 1900 neighborhoods and business districts myself.

Even more challenging was the emotional toll this story took on my day to day life. I don't believe anyone could read the many accounts of individual loss from this storm and not experience an intense emotional response. I certainly couldn't, but I couldn't allow myself to take the easy path of skipping lightly through the horrific aftermath either, just to ease my own discomfort. I needed to stay true to even the smallest details, though it meant living with the grisly effects of this storm for a full year.

From the onset of this project, hundred-year-old photos and heartrending personal accounts haunted me every day, and they were the last thing in my thoughts before falling asleep each night. These were real people, caught up in a real disaster, something that could still happen to any one of us today, and more than anything, I wanted to stay true to their stories.

I'm likewise a fan of your debut novel, The Truth About Sparrows (HenryHolt, 2004)(recommendation). Could you tell us a bit about this book?

Thank you; that's always so nice to hear. The Truth about Sparrows was my first historical fiction and a story very close to my heart. It follows Sadie, a twelve-year-old girl who loses her Missouri home during the Great Depression and is forced to start all over in a one-room tarpapered house on the Texas coast. Although the characters are fictional, most of the events were taken from my parents' and grandparents' experiences, even the scene where Sadie has no choice but to help with the birth of her baby sister. It was a joy to recreate this struggling 1933 fishing and shrimping community for young readers, and I was especially grateful for the opportunity to include the character of "Daddy," modeled after my own grandfather who had polio before he was a year old and never walked.

What do you hope readers take away from the story?

I suppose I've had the same hope for both books. I'd like to think my readers will come away with a deeper appreciation for what so many families, even their own, have endured and overcome, and perhaps be inspired to face their own adversities with that same kind of courage and determination to succeed.

What advice do you have for beginning novelists?

One turning point for me was learning to trust my own instincts and allow myself to become each character. This was tremendously helpful in letting readers in on my character's thoughts so they could share in the emotion, understand the cause, and care about the outcome. I've always tried to let each part of my story evolve naturally to a believable conclusion, following when it insisted on wandering paths I'd never expected or drew me to characters I'd never planned, even when doing so could change the ending I'd envisioned. This seat-of-the-pants writing may not work for everyone, but some of my most surprising and gratifying scenes/characters were
written this way.

I suppose the best advice I could give to any new writer, besides the important "read, read, read," is to love what you’re doing. Love the characters, the words and the images they evoke, and yes, even the revisions. Look at each revision as another chance to bring more clarity, to make some part of your story touch your reader more deeply and hopefully linger long after your book is back on the shelf.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I'm still doing an occasional home design and my family keeps me very busy since my daughter and her preschool children are with us now, but I try to always make time for the simple joys. When I can, which isn't nearly often enough, my husband and I like to pull our travel trailer to a river or lake to fish and watch the sun go down. We take a few good books and CDs, grill fish, veggies, and stuffed jalapenos, and open a nice bottle of wine. My grandchildren are finally big enough to go with us occasionally, so we’ll probably need a larger travel trailer before long!

What can your fans look forward to next?

My next book, untitled at this time, is another historical fiction set in 1918 Canton, Texas, and again, partially derived from old family stories.

It begins with the dreams of sixteen-year-old Mercy Kaplan, a sharecropper's daughter, who has never wanted to be anything at all like her mother. Mercy longs to be free, far from the threat of being saddled with kids, dirty laundry, and failing crops the rest of her life. When the deadly 1918 flu epidemic sweeps through Canton, she gets what she wants in a way she never imagined and soon finds herself employed by the newly widowed Cora Wilder. But there's something secretive and downright strange about the woman. And then there's Daniel Wilder, her eighteen-year-old stepson, with his green eyes and fierce determination to protect his fatherless siblings, just the sort who could sweep a foolish girl off her feet and into a dull and wearisome life like her mother's if she isn't watchful. But Mercy is watchful, and observant enough to uncover the clues to Cora Wilder's odd behavior, which inches her ever closer to exposing a twenty-year-old murder.

Cynsational Notes

on Dark Water Rising

"A master of her craft...this is historical fiction at its best." --Kirkus, starred review

"...this fine example of historical fiction has something for almost everyone." --Booklist, starred review

"... this is a stunning novel." --Children's Literature

"Fact and fiction are blended effortlessly together in an exciting read that leaves readers with a sense of hope." --School Library Journal

on The Truth About Sparrows

Nominated for six state awards and selected for the following awards and honors: Editor's Choice for 2004 by Booklist Magazine; Top Ten First Novels by Booklist Magazine; 2004 Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers by VOYA (Voices of Youth Advocates); Lasting Connections of 2004 by Book Links Magazine; Children's Books 2004: One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing, by the New York Public Library; Teachers' Choice for 2005 in the Advanced category by IRA (the International Reading Association); The Best Children's Books of the Year 2005 edition, selected by the Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education; 2005 Notable Books for a Global Society list by the NBGS committee of the Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group of IRA (the International Reading Association); "Worthy of Special Note" books for The 2005 Virginia Jefferson Cup Award (for historical fiction and nonfiction); The Editor's Choice - Best book of the Month by
Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review.

"Hale's evocative, sure prose, in Sadie's colloquial voice, brings alive the setting and the family's survival challenges with cinematic detail that's reminiscent of the Little House books." --Booklist, starred review

"...a beautifully realized work, memorable for its Gulf Coast setting and the luminous voice of Sadie Wynn." --Kirkus

"...triumphant and memorable." --Horn Book

"Sparrows is a breath of fresh air even when it brings tears to your eyes." --USA Today

"...for its depth of detail, keen sense of place and, especially, for Sadie, Hale's story is a debut novel worth seeking out." --San Diego Union Tribune

"...this is a unique, powerful and enlightening novel which will speak to the inner person in all of us...a treasure of a book.” --Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review

How To Throw A Book Launch Party

Learn "How to Throw a Book Launch Party" via an article I've written that has been posted to Anastasia Suen's blog, Create/Relate: News from the Children's Book Biz.

Speaking of which, the lovely Elizabeth Garton Scanlon at Liz In Ink is the latest blogger to chime in about my Tantalize launch party. Liz is the author of A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes: A Pocket Book, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins, 2004). Visit her author site and read her recent interview at Cynsations.

Don't miss the other party reports from Cynsations, GregLSBlog, Don Tate's Devas T. Rants and Raves, Camille's Book Moot, Jo Whittemore's LJ (great pics!), and Alison Dellenbaugh's Alison Wonderland. Read Cynsations interviews with Greg, Don, and Jo.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Author Interview: Robin Merrow MacCready on Buried

Robin Merrow MacCready on Robin Merrow MacCready: "I grew up in the 60s and 70s in Kennebunk Beach, Maine. My father was a realtor and we had a hotel and later an inn. Lots of people doing lots of things: fuel for great stories! After the summer was over, Kennebunk reverted back to a quiet town, but during the July and August it exploded with families from all over. I always worked as a chamber maid or a house cleaner or baby sitter. I also taught arts and crafts at the beach club. I love the contrast between the townies and the tourists. It's rich and it's infuriating, but it's ripe with stories.

"I'm the oldest in my family. My brother is a musician, and my sister is an art director. My mother is a writer, and my father is a realtor and an avid reader. I have him to thank for my love of things that are a little bit creepy. I say a little bit because it doesn't take much to scare me. I remember reading a scary paperback at the kitchen table and Dad jolting me and I screamed. I considered my ability to zone out a gift. Compared to my friends I was quiet and shy. I watched people, and daydreamed a lot, and although my report cards were not perfect, I loved English and reading and art. I even loved diagraming sentences although I can't remember how to do it now!"

What about the writing life first called to you? Were you quick to answer or did time pass by?

I was the kind of kid that played school. I read and wrote all the time. I thought everybody made homemade cards with poems inside. In high school, I made up stories, mostly romances, and kept a journal. The journal was only half true. I embellished the events to my satisfaction. It wasn't until I began teaching that I considered being a writer. I was lucky to be a student at the New Hampshire Writing Project where a new writing philosophy reigned. That is: if you want to write go ahead and try! Everybody's a writer!

What made you decide to write for young adults?

When I first wrote I imagined being the new Arnold Lobel. His Frog and Toad and Owl at Home are my favorites. I tried, but failed and put away my dream for ten years. When I tried again I thought I was writing an adult book and almost gave it up because the voice was that of a teenage girl, but I didn't because I heard her story as clear as I bell and I believed it.

Could you tell us about your path to publication, any sprints or stumbles along the way?

When I decided to become a published author I manned myself with every book and any course I thought I needed. The plan was that if I had all the information and followed the directions perfectly I'd make it. It partly worked that way. I worked my butt off! I listened to my critique partners when they had a point to make because they were usually right. I wrote down some goals to reach, tasks to do, and I didn't let anyone get in my way. I was single minded in a way I never had been before.

I sent three chapters of Buried to Julie Strauss-Gabel after she spoke at a national conference of SCBWI, and she wanted to read the whole manuscript. She loved the first three chapters but said as the story progressed it wasn't what she'd hoped. She wrote a kind of thanks-but-no-thanks letter. I wrote back and asked more questions about the problems she had with the manuscript and that began our nearly two year pre-contract relationship.

We passed the book back and forth. I valued Julie's insight and light touch, but in the late summer of 2004 I felt it was time to send Buried. I sent it to Julie and two other major houses that had shown interest during SCBWI critiques. I teach and the summer was quickly winding down--I had about two weeks of summer left. I spent a week researching agents in a big way. I finally got it down to 10 and queried them. Wendy Schmalz [scroll for bio] phoned me and said she was interested in representing me and Buried, but first she scolded me about the way I went about the process. Buried was already sitting in three houses. For her it was probably not the way she'd planned to sell it. But for me it was a relief. Now I could go set up my classroom. Within the week I had a sale with Dutton, and I'm very happy I could continue with Julie.

Congratulations on the publication of Buried (Dutton, 2006)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

The climactic scene came to me one day when I was writing with my sister. We were just fooling around, but I saw Claudine in her horrific situation and it was clear like a movie. That was my initial contact with Claudine, but the inspiration for her comes from a girl I knew growing up. I was her sometimes babysitter. Her mother was a guidance counselor and an alcoholic. Whenever I sat for the little girl it was like hanging out with a peer. She was older acting, a little rough around the edges, and competent. Too competent for age seven. One night she took care of me while I had the flu and later her mother came home drunk, so she cared for her too.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

The challenge was to let myself go deeper and deeper and not lose the storyline. It sounds simple but it's a fine line to walk. When Claudine's OCD was aggravated my instinct as a friend/mother was to turn it off, not let it rip. When I let it get out of control it was sometimes scary. As far as the addiction model goes, I wanted it to be real. Buried is a story. It's not true, but I would argue that Claudine's pain, her shame, and all her feelings are shared by children of alcoholics.

You're an Edgar nominee. Wow! That's great! What does the nomination mean to you? How did you react when you found out?

Julie left a message on my machine saying that she had some great news for me. I had no idea what it could be. I'd been talking to my agent that day because I was worried about how sales were going. When Julie told me I was a nominee I said, "Oh, really?" I didn't know what it meant. I'd seen the list of submissions and there were a lot of books, so it still didn't register as a big thing until she said I was one of five in the Best YA category. I'm thrilled! I'm up against some big competition, but I'm bursting with pride. It's especially exciting because there are five writers from Maine and Stephen King is one of them. It'll be a great night.

What advice do you have for beginning novelists?

If you want to be published you have to be willing to take some heat. Listen to your critiques and make changes if there is validity, but don't listen to the people who want to discourage you. Politely ignore all those that think you're wasting your time. Also, I think SCBWI is a great organization for beginning writers. I know I wouldn't be published without it.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I teach reading and writing to 4th-6th graders. I write on the weekends and sometimes at night.

Cynsational News & Links

My new novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) received a five-star review from Karin Perry at TeensReadToo.com! Karin calls the novel "...a stimulating paranormal mystery mixed with romance. The relationship between Quincie and Kieren is touching and so deep that the reader feels Quincie’s pain at the thought of losing Kieren, while at the same time understanding Kieren’s reasons for keeping Quincie at arms length..." Read the whole review.

Speaking of Tantalize itself, though, Alison Dellenbaugh (AKA She Who Brought Her Own Fangs) offers her report on the novel's launch party at Alison Wonderland. So does Jo--news with many party pics!--at her LJ. And Tanya Lee Stone offers cheers. See the full launch party report.

More News & Links

Interview with Robin Friedman on The Girlfriend Project from Little Willow at Slayground. The Girlfriend Project will be published by Walker in April. Read an excerpt. (By the way, The Girlfriend Project official site is an excellent example of a book-specific site and was designed by Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys.

The lovely and talented Newbery Award honor recipients offer a show of solidarity for this year's recently challenged winner, Susan Patron, at Cynthia Lord's LJ, "from Jennifer Holm, Kirby Larson, and Me."

Alma Fullerton offers new interviews with authors Kristy Dempsey, Dori Chaconas, and Douglas Rees. She also offers a new interview with agent Nadia Cornier of Firebrand Literary. Nadia says: "I'll overlook a lot for a great story. I mean, I've read some fabulous books that are perfectly crafted but really boring stories - but a really perfect story, even if it isn't perfectly crafted will have such MEANING and resonance. I want those." Read the whole interview.

A Novel Writing Workshop with D. Anne Love

Author D. Anne Love will lead an Austin SCBWI novel writing workshop on March 24.

"D. Anne Love shares her secrets for writing great plots, compelling characters, and dialogue that will keep your readers wanting more. Toss in a few wrting exercises for creativity and time for quesitons and answers and you'll leave the workshop with plenty of ideas for finishing your novel and getting it pulblished. Ten manuscript critiques will be available to SCBWI members on a first come, first served basis."

D. Anne Love is the award-winning author of numerous novels for middle grade readers and young adults. Her books take readers from the world of itinerant puppeteers in medieval England to the gates of the Alamo and the windswept plains of the Dakotas, from a ranch in modern-day Texas to a South Carolina plantation at the start of the Civil War. A former teacher, school principal, and university professor, She fills her stories with details gleaned from the meticulous research she conducts for each of her novels.

Her first novel, Bess's Log Cabin Quilt (Holiday House, 1995), was featured in The Iowa Reading Journal, The Mailbox magazine, and was nominated for multiple state awards. My Lone Star Summer (Holiday House, 1997) won the Friends of American Writers Juvenile Fiction Prize. Other books received multiple nominations for state awards and are a part of state reading lists nationwide. The Puppeteer's Apprentice (Simon & Schuster/McElderry, 2003)(excerpt) was a Book of the Month Club alternate. Her recent titles include: The Secret Prince (Simon & Schuster/McElderry, 2005)(excerpt); Semiprecious (Simon & Schuster/McElderry, 2006)(excerpt); and Of Numbers and Stars: The Story of Hypatia (Holiday House, 2006).

D. Anne holds degrees from Lamar University and the University of North Texas.

Download the Austin SCBWI novel workshop registration form. Read a Cynsations interview with Dorothy Love.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tantalize Launch Party

Thanks to all who celebrated with us in person or in spirit at the launch party for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) on Friday, Feb. 23!

In keeping with the Sanguini's motif (the fictional vampire restaurant in the novel), guests were asked to sign in as predator or prey.

We decorated in low-key Gothic colors, mostly with accents--including the framed Sanguini's fangs-style logo in the foyer, black-and-red linens for the daybed, black tapers in the candlesticks, black votives in the tray display, black-and-red pillar candles in the fireplace, red drop crystals in the parlor chandelier, black coasters, and black table cloths. Off-limits rooms were marked with crime-scene and police-line tape.

We also set three tables with the matching linens on the front terrace for those who wanted to enjoy the bright, breeze, 70-something degree night.

So far as wardrobe went, I opted for a slinky black shell and pants, black cowbody boots, my snake-wrapped earrings, my antique gold watch necklace (originally grandma's), and a full-length black net cape.

The previous day, Barbara Marin at Bo Salon on South Congress had taken my hair to a near black featuring a subtle dark blue sheen with red stripe accent streaks in front, and Kate Pham, also of Bo, painted my nails in alternating red and black. Many guests commented that they thought I should keep the 'do permanently.

The to-die-for menu, from Primizie Catering, featured: antipasto; smoked salmon gravlox; fresh vegetable crudite platter; imported and domestic artisan cheese board with vineyard grapes and seasonal berries; fresh seasonal fruit; oven dried tomatoes finished with local goat cheese balsamic vinaigreette and snipped chives; Italian sausage "spiedini" with peppers and pecorino romano cheese; calzone with mushrooms and Italian cheeses; miniature stuffed and baked pizza pockets filled with Italian cheeses, wild mushrooms and charred tomato; cocktail sandwiches (wild mushrooms, garlicky spinach and artichoke herb spread on Italian flatbread); and stuffed porcini mushrooms. Absolutely delicious! The calzone and porcini mushrooms were especially popular with our crowd. Guest Anne Bustard graciously provided an Italian creme cake.

Colby Neal 's The Flower Studio designed the gorgeously gothic buffet flowers.

Candlewick Press co-sponsored a giveaway of the final book (guests were each welcome to take one). I pre-autographed the copies. A few folks also bought (prior to the party) and brought more for me to sign.

Door prizes included ARCs of the following 2007 novels by Austin-area authors: Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie (Delacorte); Onaj's Horn: the Silverskin Legacy (Book Three) by Jo Whittemore (Llewellyn); Runaround by Helen Hemphill (Front Street); and Wonders of the World by Brian Yansky (Flux).

We also gave away a basket filled with fixings for an Italian dinner from Central Market. Contents included: black squid ink pasta; pesto sauce with truffles; sun-dried tomatoes; parmesan; dark chocolate; Sanguini's mug, sticker, mousepad, and magnet; wine biscuits; and a bottle of Travis Peak Cabernet Sauvignon.

We had a crowd of about eighty from throughout Central Texas, though with ebb and flow, there were usually only about sixty people inside the house at any given time.

Guests included such luminaries as writers Brian Anderson, Kathi Appelt, Anne Bustard, Janie Bynum, Betty Davis, Alison Dellenbaugh, Peni R. Griffin, Lila and Rick Guzman, Helen Hemphill, Frances Hill, Varian Johnson, Lindsey Lane, April Lurie, Mark Mitchell, Sean Petrie, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Liz Garton Scanlon, Elaine Scott, Jerry Wermund, Jo Whittemore, and Brian Yansky, illustrators Gene Brenek, Joy Fisher Hein, Christy Stallop, and Don Tate, current and former Austin SCBWI RAs-authors Tim Crow, Meredith Davis, Debbie Dunn, Julie Lake, and Nancy Jean Okunami, as well as a bounty other book pros (teachers, school and public librarians, university professors of children's/YA lit, and so on), including author-librarian Jeanette Larson, librarian-blogger Camille Powell, and a number of additional book lovers, friends, and significant others.

Kathi Appelt was kind enough to propose a toast!

I'd say about a third of the guests were writers or illustrators, about a third other book folks, and about a third significant others and additional guests, which made for a lovely mix.

My special thanks to the central Texas children's and young adult book community for all of its enthusiasm and support. I'm so honored and thrilled to have such amazing people in my life.

Cynsational Notes

Thanks also to our servers, Anna and Eric! They looked fierce in their custom Sanguini's T-shirts designed by Gene Brenek. Thanks to author Julie Lake for facilitating their hiring.

Thanks also to Michael Helferich for lending us his chainsaw. Because the weather cooperated, we didn't need to have the outdoor fireplace on the terrace, but it gave us peace of mind to have it as a back-up plan.

Primizie Osteria – Italian CafĂ© and Wine Bar will open soon at 1000 E. 11th Street, Suite 200 in Austin.

See more party news and pics at GregLSBlog. Once the festivities started, we were too busy to keeping shooting photos, but I'll be sure to highlight any other party posts that may arise. Speaking of which, check out Don's "A tantalizing party" at Devas T. Rants and Raves, Liz's "Community" at Liz In Ink, Camille's "Friday Night Highlights" at Book Moot, "Tantalize Party" (with excellent party pics!) at Jo's LJ, and Alison's "A tantalizing weekend" at Alison Wonderland.
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