Friday, June 01, 2007

Cynsational News & Links

"Won't Stock a Book with the Word 'Gay' in the Title" from Carrie Jones. She's the author of Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend (Flux, 2007). Read an excerpt.

The Acquisition Process: From Submission to Contract by Harold Underdown at The Purple Crayon. Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Chad Beckerman: Associate Art Director, Book Publishing by Paul Maniaci from the Career Cookbook. Source: Book Moot.

CBC Showcase: May/June: Fiction on the Edge: "includes both light and serious fiction on the many and varied issues facing teens and pre-teens." Highlights include Powers by Deborah Lynn Jacobs (Roaring Brook, 2006)(author interview) and Gone by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson (Roaring Brook, 2007)(author interview). See also the CBC Summer Reading Extravaganza.

Charlesbridge Open House from Unabridge. Highlights include a photo of the lovely Mitali Perkins and editor Judy O'Malley in a sari.

Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins: recommendation and Q&A interview at the YA Authors Cafe. Here's a sneak peek: "My feeling has always been that religion, the supernatural and the afterlife are *the* most important issues any human has to face. We're alive on this earth for less than 100 years (most of us, anyway), and then there's the question of what happens to us for the rest of eternity. I'd say the answer to that question is crucial. And the answer--or lack of an answer--that each of us comes up with is what provides us with a moral system to live by."

Jon Scieszka Worldwide: new official site is bright, entertaining, everything you'd expect. Source: A Fuse #8 Production (congratulations to Fuse #8 on moving to SLJ).

Interview: Sonya Sones by Little Willow at Bildungsroman. Here's a sneak peek: "I'd been taking a class at UCLA on writing poetry for children, taught by the great Myra Cohn Livingston. I'd been concentrating on writing funny poems. But one day Myra asked us to write a poem using dactyl and trochee rhythms, which are these really somber rhythms. When I sat down to do the assignment, something very unexpected happened: I ended up writing a poem about having to visit my older sister in the mental hospital on my thirteenth birthday, and about how sad and scary that had been for me."

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #28: Author and blogger and all-around rocker, Cecil Castellucci. Read a Cynsations interview with Cecil.

Librarian of Congress to Name National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

The Library of Congress announced yesterday that, through its Center for the Book, it will create the post of National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Appointed for a two-year term by the Librarian of Congress, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will speak to the importance of fiction and non-fiction books in children's lives. Selected for extraordinary contributions to the world of books for young people, the National Ambassador will encourage the appreciation of young people's literature throughout the United States through both personal and media appearances.

“"The Ambassador will be an award-winning author or illustrator whose position will acknowledge ­at the national level ­the importance of exceptional authors and illustrators in creating the readers of tomorrow,"” said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.

The National Ambassador program is a joint initiative of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Children's Book Council (CBC). The appointment of the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will be announced in January 2008.

"We are thrilled. The National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will honor and promote the essential role young people's literature plays in every aspect of our society,"” said Simon Boughton, Chair of the CBC Board of Directors and Executive Vice President & Publisher of Roaring Brook Press.

The National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will travel and speak extensively during the two-year term, participating in book and reading promotion events throughout the United States. While each term will bring new events in different areas of the country, the National Ambassador will speak in Washington, DC each fall at the National Book Festival and in New York City each spring during Children's Book Week.

The National Ambassador will choose a platform on which the two-year term will focus. This platform will emphasize literacy, education, and related issues concerning books and young people. In addition to regular speaking engagements, the National Ambassador will work with national media outlets to promote this platform to an even wider audience.

The National Ambassador for Young People's Literature position is patterned after the Children's Laureate in the United Kingdom. The Center for the Book and the Children's Book Council will administer the project jointly, including naming the Selection Committee, overseeing the selection process, and organizing the National Ambassador's travel schedule.

The Selection Committee will consider all nationally-prominent creators of fiction and non-fiction books for children and young adults in the United States. Selection criteria will include, but will not be limited to, level of national prominence and popularity with young people, as well as the candidate's known enthusiasm for specific issues in children's and/or young adult literature.

Financial support for the National Ambassador program is provided by Cheerios(r) cereal, which has been getting books into children's hands and encouraging families to read together through its Spoonfuls of Stories(r) program. Over the past 5 years, Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories has distributed more than 25 million books free inside boxes of Cheerios cereal, and donated more than $2 million to First Book(r), an international children's literacy organization. Additional financial support for this program is provided by HarperCollins Children's Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, Random House Children's Books, Holiday House, Inc., National Geographic Children's Books, Houghton Mifflin Company, Harcourt Children's Books and Candlewick Press. The CBC, through its associated 501(c)(3) entity, the CBC Foundation, is seeking additional financial support for the National Ambassador program from the private sector and encourages those interested in supporting this exciting program to contact CBC and CBC Foundation Executive Director, Robin Adelson at 212-966-1990 or .

The Children's Book Council, established in 1945, is the non-profit trade association of publishers and packagers of trade books and related materials for children and young adults in the United States. The goals of the Children's Book Council are to make the reading and enjoyment of children's books an essential part of America's educational and social goals; to enhance public perception of the importance of reading by disseminating information about books and related materials for young people and information about children's book publishing; to create materials to support literacy and reading encouragement programs; and to encourage the annual observance of Children's Book Week.

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 by Public Law 95-129 to use the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. Its entire program is supported by private funds. To carry out its mission, the center has created two national networks: affiliates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and national reading promotion partners, mostly non-profit organizations, such as the Children's Book Council, that promote books, reading, literacy, and libraries. The Center for the Book plays a key role in the development of the National Book Festival, held each year on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Novel Secrets Series: Interview with Editor Alexandra Penfold of Simon & Schuster

Alexandra Penfold is an assistant editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

What were you like as a young reader? What were your favorite books?

I was an obsessive reader as a kid. I read everything I could get my hands on and bankrolled the public library with my allowance because I always wanted to read books one more time before I returned them.

Some of my favorite books growing up were Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, The Knight and the Dragon by Tommie dePaola, The Pirates Mixed-Up Voyage by Margaret Mahy, Matilda by Roald Dahl, The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, That Dreadful Day by James Stevenson; I could go on and on.

I can probably attribute my living in New York today, at least in part to my love for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Eloise by Kay Thompson, and The Babysitter's Club Super Special #6: New York, New York!

What inspired you to become a children's/YA book editor?

My mother is a writer and growing up I always wanted to be just like her. My parents always made sure our home was filled with books and when it came time to choose a career path it all came back to the books that inspired me as a kid and wanting to be part of the publishing process that brings great books to children.

How did you prepare for this career?

I graduated from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, which is a specialized school at NYU that allows self directed students to create their own majors. My concentration in school was Entertainment Business and Marketing, so I basically did a marketing major with lots of writing and entertainment and media classes thrown in.

I actually started out on the marketing side of things as a summer intern and then got my first job as a publicity assistant for Simon & Schuster's Children's Publishing. After a couple years in publicity, I transitioned to the editorial side of things. But honestly I'm still learning new things every day--it's a lifelong learning process.

What do you see as the job(s) of the editor in the publishing process?

Throughout the publishing process the editor wears many hats, but first and foremost I think of the editor as a book's champion. From the moment an editor reads a manuscript and has that gut feeling that "this is it" they are cheering on the author and illustrator every step of the way.

What are its challenges?

I honestly wish that there were more hours in the day. As an editor you're always on the look out for new talent, and it's difficult to find the time to read as much as I would like. We get a lot of unsolicited submissions from authors that aren't totally polished, but have promise and it's hard when you don't have the time to give a lot of individual feedback

What do you love about it?

I love working with the authors and illustrators, of course!

Could you give us some idea of your tastes, the kinds of books you're looking to acquire?

I'm particularly interested in young humorous picture books that work on multiple levels. The kind of books that both parents and kids will want to read again and again.

I'm also interested in middle grade and YA novels with strong central characters and unique voices. Those pre-teen and teen years are such a defining time in a person's life, a time where you really discover who you are and what you stand for. I remember reading a lot at that age and finding comfort in books--discovering I wasn't alone in my confusion and frustration at the world.

Above all, voice and strong characters are what grab me.

Could you suggest some of your previous titles for study and/or those by other editors that you particularly admire (noting which are your own)?

Some of my favorite picture books include: Double Pink by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Bruce Ingman; Cowboy Ned and Andy by David Ezra Stein; Wolves and Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett; Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin; and the Gossie books by Olivier Dunrea.

I love the humor in these books. The text of each book is short and young, the characters have a great deal of personality, the stories are fun, and once you've finished reading them you can't wait to go back to the beginning and read them again.

I've had the good fortune to work with Meghan McCarthy on City Hawk: The True Story of Pale Male (Fall 2007), which is a really great engaging non-fiction picture book about Pale Male, the hawk who makes his home on the ledge of a swanky 5th Avenue co-op in New York City. As with all of her books, Meghan does a great job making the characters really come to life for the reader.

I would also say the same for Marissa Moss' Amelia series, which I've also had the opportunity to work on. Moss' Amelia books cut right to the heart of what it is to be a middle-schooler. Amelia's voice is authentic and her hopes, dreams, troubles and struggles are real. I can't tell you how many readers write in saying that Amelia is just like them

Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson, Private by Kate Brian, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak are three very different young adult novels that I've enjoyed recently. Each has terrific characters, a great voice, and I couldn't put them down.

Along with Rebecca Sherman of Writers House, you'll be joining Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts as an editor speaker. Could you give us some insight into your program?

I'm excited to be doing this retreat with Rebecca Sherman, not only because we're good friends, but also we've also worked together. We hope to give participants some insight into the editor/agent relationship, how we negotiate and communicate, both with each other and with our authors and illustrators, as well as run workshops on the steps to preparing manuscripts for submissions

What is one thing you wish every beginning writer knew?

You never stop learning as a writer. There's always something more that each of us can learn. I truly believe that writing is a skill in addition to being a craft, and in order to improve you really need to write and write and write. Keep believing and keep writing!

Is there anything you would like to add?

Many thanks go out to Nancy Wagner for putting together this great retreat program! Retreats are a terrific opportunity to really focus on your writing, get targeted constructive feedback, solve those seemingly unsolvable dilemmas, and get things into great shape for submission. And personally, I love the opportunities it affords me to get to know participants one-on-one.

I hope to see you in Nebraska!

Cynsational Notes

See previous interviews in this series with authors Darcy Pattison, Elaine M. Alphin, and N.L. Sharp as well as agent Rebecca Sherman of Writers House.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tantalize Fans Unite! Group Recommends YA Gothic Fantasy Novels

Members of the Tantalize Fans Unite! group at MySpace cheered their favorite gothic fantasies this past month. Highlighted books included those published for both the grown-up and young adult markets; however only the tween and teen (YA) titles are listed herein. Grouping sequels and/or companion books together (to the extent I recognize them), recommendations included:

THE AFTERLIFE by Gary Soto (Harcourt, 2003)(author interview from Harcourt). In this sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet story, Chuy is murdered, stabbed with a knife only to find…not an end, but a new beginning. As a ghostly being, he visits family and friends. He finds the young man he could've been and maybe even true love. This isn't a story of "too late." It's one of "just in time."

BEATING HEART: A GHOST STORY by A.M. Jenkins (HarperCollins, 2006). From the promotional copy: "She is a momentary chill in warm sunlight, a shadow glimpsed from the corner of an eye, and a memory of secret kisses and hidden passion. He is seventeen years old, waiting for the start of his senior year, and ever since his family moved into this big old house--abandoned for decades--he has dreamt of her. Hot, wordless dreams that turn more intense and darker each night. Ghost and boy fascinate each other--until her memories and his desire collide in a moment that changes them both forever."

BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, 1997)(author interview)(excerpt). A sensual exploration of Vivian's longing for a calm life beyond her wolf pack. She falls in love with a human, what her people call a "meat boy," but she wonders whether he will accept her for what she is. Though her wolf nature is explored in all its bloodiness, at times she could be any teenager who's not sure who she is or where she fits. See fun facts about Annette; visit Princess Wolf: Unofficial Annette Curtis Klause site. Fans of Annette Curtis Klause also should note her most recent release FREAKS! ALIVE ON THE INSIDE (McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2006)(author interview)(excerpt).

THE BLOODING by Patricia Windsor (Scholastic, 1996). When Maris decides she's had enough of her mother's constant picking, a summer au pair job seems like a perfect escape. But she quickly finds that the Forrest house isn't as peaceful as it seems. Maris begins to wonder about the unknown beast in the woods, whether Barb Forrest is insane, and why Derek Forrest inspires such conflicting emotions. As much of a psychological study as a horror novel.

BLUE BLOODS by Melissa De La Cruz (Hyperion, 2006)(excerpt). From the promotional copy: "Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm. She starts to crave raw food--and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a girl from her school is found dead...drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn’t know what to think. Could those vampire legends really be true? Steeped in vampire lore and set against the heady backdrop of the rich, young, and powerful in the heart of New York City..." Don't miss the companion book, MASQUERADE (Hyperion, 2007). Visit Melissa's blog and Melissa at MySpace.

THE BLUE GIRL by Charles De Lent (Viking, 2004). From the author site: "'s your introduction to Imogene and her best friend Maxine, a couple of outcasts at Redding High who find that getting pushed around by the other kids in school is the least of their worries."

BOYS THAT BITE by Mari Mancusi (Berkeley Trade, 2006) (author interview from Slayground)(excerpt). From the author site: "My mom is so going to kill me if she finds out I'm turning into a vampire... Okay, so technically she can't because I'm immortal. Well, not yet. See, due to the worst case of mistaken identity with my dark-side-loving twin sister at a Goth hangout called Club Fang, Magnus, a vampire hottie, went for my innocent neck instead of hers. Now, if I don't reverse it in time, Magnus will be my blood mate forever and I'm doomed to be a blood-gulping, pasty, daylight-hating vmapire. Believe me, it seriously bites!" Don't miss the companion book, STAKE THAT! (Berkeley Trade, 2006)(excerpt). Visit Mari at MySpace.

CITY OF BONES (Book One of the Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare (author interview from BC Books)(excerpt). From Class of 2K7: "City of Bones is the first book of the Mortal Instruments Trilogy, a dark urban fantasy series about a sixteen-year old girl, Clary Fray, who lives in New York with her single mother, an artist. She comes home one night to find her apartment ransacked, her mother gone—and a slavering demon ready to tear off her head. Clary’s search for her mother leads her into an alternate New York filled with hideous demons, hard-partying warlocks, not-what-they-seem vampires, an army of werewolves and the scariest thing of all: the secrets of her own family’s past. She also finds herself torn between two boys—her best friend Simon, for whom she’s developing new feelings, and the mysterious demon hunter Jace, who has a past more tangled than her own. She becomes a part of the secret word of the demon hunters, or Nephilim, and as she does she discovers that rescuing her mother might mean putting their whole world in jeopardy." Read Cassandra's LJ. Visit Cassandra at MySpace.

COMPANIONS OF THE NIGHT by Vivian Vande Velde (Harcourt, 1995)(author interview). Thinking she's stumbled into a crime scene, Kerry, 16, helps Ethan escape from the seemingly crazy men who claim he is a vampire. But soon after her family is kidnapped, Kerry realizes that maybe they weren't so crazy after. Worse, she can't think of anyone better to help her find vampires than a vampire himself. But will Ethan turn into the love of her life or the creature who takes it?

DEMON IN MY VIEW by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Laurel Leaf, 2001). From the promotional copy: "Jessica isn't your average teenager. Though nobody at her high school knows it, her vampire novel has just come out under a pen name. Jessica often wishes that she felt as comfortable with her classmates as she does among the vampires and witches of her fiction. She has always been treated as an outsider at Ramsa High. But two new students have just arrived in Ramsa, and both want Jessica's attention. She has no patience for overly friendly Caryn, but she's instantly drawn to Alex, a handsome boy who seems surprisingly familiar. If she didn't know better, she'd think that Aubrey, the alluring villain from her novel, had just sprung to life. That's impossible, of course; Aubrey is a figment of her imagination. Or is he?" Author Amelia Atwater-Rhodes body of work (as a whole) also was recommended. Learn more about her many books at Wikipedia and visit The Den of Shadows and Amelia's MySpace.

DEVILISH by Maureen Johnson (Razorbill, 2006)(excerpt). From the promotional copy: "The only thing that makes St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane's suddenly alone—-and very confused. Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity—-to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa's! Now it's up to Jane to put it all on the line to save her friend from this ponytail-wearing, cup-cake-nibbling demon...without losing her own soul in the process.This YA take on Faust in a Catholic girls' high school is clever, fun, and full of tasty surprises." Read Maureen's blog.

EIGHTH GRADE BITES (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod) by Heather Brewer (Dutton, 2007)(excerpt). From the promotional copy: "Junior high school really sucks for thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod, and not in the good slurp-up-the-blood kind of way. A gang of bullies harasses him daily, the principal is dogging his every move, and the girl he really likes prefers his best friend. Oh, and Vlad has to hide the fact that he's a vampire. When the one teacher he really connects with mysteriously vanishes, Vlad is determined to find him. But then Vlad finds an unsettling note scribbled across his essay: 'I know your secret.' Vlad must locate his missing teacher, dodge the principal, resist the bullies’ tempting invitations to Bite me!, and get a date for the dance—all before he is exposed for the teen vampire he is." Note: Heather is a member of our group! Visit Heather's MySpace.

GLASS HOUSES (Book One of the Morganville Vampire Series) by Rachel Caine (NAL/JAM, 2006)(author interview). From the promotional copy: "Welcome to Morganville, Texas. Just don't stay out after dark. College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school's social scene: somewhere less than zero. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life. But they'll have Claire's back when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood." Don't miss the companion book, DEAD GIRLS DANCE (NAL/JAM, 2007).

GOT FANGS? CONFESSIONS OF A VAMPIRE'S GIRLFRIEND by Katie Maxwell (2005). From the promotional copy: "All sixteen-year-old Francesca Getti wants to do is have a normal life where she's one of the crowd, blending in so no one will know just how much of a freak she is. Dragged to Europe by her mother to join GothFaire, a travelling band of psychics, magicians, and assorted other oddities, Fran has to cope with not only the normal angst of always being a fish out of water, but also with her own fate as a psychometrist. Enter one Moravian Dark One (referred to by most people as vampires) named Benedikt who claims Fran is the key to redeeming his soul, a mysterious horse who seems to have an involved past, an immortal friend who remembers what Mozart was like, and a demonologist who thinks he's Elvis, and you can understand why Fran despairs of ever fitting in." Don't miss the companion book, CIRCUS OF THE DARNED (2006).

GOTHIC! TEN ORIGINAL DARK TALES edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2004)(author interview)(excerpt). Features stories by Joan Aiken, M.T. Anderson, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Celia Rees, Janni Lee Simner, Vivian Vande Velde, and Barry Yourgrau. Worth the price of the book for the introduction, though the collection itself is wickedly outstanding. Don't miss the upcoming companion book, THE RESTLESS DEAD (Candlewick, 2007).

A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray (Delacorte, 2003)(author interview)(excerpt). Sensuality chafes against Victorian restrictions in this lush and thoughtful tale of boarding school friends who find their own power and powers. Don't miss the companion book, REBEL ANGELS (Delacorte, 2005)(excerpt). Visit Libba's LJ.

I WAS A TEENAGE FAIRY by Francesca Lia Block (HarperCollins, 2000). From the promotional copy: "This is the story of Barbie Marks, who dreams of being the one behind the Cyclops eye of the camera, not the voiceless one in front of it; who longs to run away to New York City where she can be herself, not some barley flesh-and-blood version of the plastic doll she was named after. It is the story of Griffin Tyler, whose androgynous beauty hides the dark pain he holds inside. And finally it is the story of Mab, a pinkie-sized, magenta-haired, straight-talking fairy, who may or may not be real but who helps Barbie and Griffin uncover the strength beneath the pain, and who teaches that love--like a sparkling web of light spinning around our bodies and our souls--is what can heal even the deepest scars."

LOOK FOR ME BY MOONLIGHT by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion, 1995). Cynda's fight with her mother and new stepfather over moving to Italy results in Cynda being shipped off to live with her father, pregnant stepmother, and five-year-old half brother at their historic inn in Maine. Cynda, 16, is fascinated first by rumors that the inn is haunted and then by Will, the grandson of the cleaning woman. But then appears a guest, Vincent--an older, sophisticated, and attentive man who seems to be the only one who really understands the displacement Cynda is feeling in her family life. Apparent sympathy grows into apparent romance, but it quickly turns more bitter than sweet.

THE LOOKING GLASS WARS by Frank Beddor (Dial, 2006). According to Wikipedia, "Inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, it claims that those two books were nothing but lies and that this is the true story. It has a twist on the story like the white rabbit is actually Alyss's (Alice's) tutor, Bibwit Harte, and that the Mad Hatter is actually a very agile, sober bodyguard."

MARKED: A HOUSE OF NIGHT NOVEL by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin's Press). Note: I couldn't find a promotional description, so see the video trailer. Read P.C.'s blog.

OLD MAGIC by Marianne Curley (Bloomsbury). From the promotional copy: "Kate is at a loss. She meets a boy with extraordinary powers and a bizarre family history that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. But Jarrod doesn't believe in the paranormal. When Kate tries to convince him that he has supernatural powers that need to be harnessed, he doesn't take her seriously, and only puts up with her 'hocus pocus' notions because he finds her captivating. However, the dangerous, uncontrolled strengthening of his gift finally convinces Jarrod that he must take Kate's theories seriously. Together, they embark on a remarkable journey – one which will unravel the mystery that has hung over Jarrod's family for generations and finds them pitted against immense forces in a battle to undo the past and reshape the future."

OVER AND OVER YOU by Amy McAuley (Roaring Brook, 2005)(author interview). Penny is haunted by vivid dreams that feel so real, almost as if they...were? After being tipped off by a psychic, she's starting to consider extreme possibilities, destinies, and even true love. Penny's voice is engaging, her plight compelling, and her command of historical factoids inspirational. A wonderful choice for romantics, fantasy fans, and those who appreciate psychic (and psychological) puzzles. Visit Amy's MySpace.

PEEPS by Scott Westerfeld (Razorbill, 2005)(author interview). From the promotional copy: "Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he's infected the girlfriends he's had since Morgan. All three have turned into the ravening ghouls Cal calls Peeps. The rest of us know them as vampires. It's Cal's job to hunt them down before they can create more of their kind. . . ." Don't miss the companion book, THE LAST DAYS (Razorbill, 2006)(excerpt). Read Scott's blog.

PROM DATES FROM HELL by Rosemary Clement-Moore (Delacorte, 2007). From the promotional copy: "Maggie Quinn, Girl reporter. Honors student, newspaper staffer, yearbook photographer. Six weeks from graduation and all she wants to do is get out of Avalon High in one piece. Fate seems to have different plans for her.'s up to her to get in touch with her inner Nancy Drew and ferret out who unleashed the ancient evil before all hell breaks loose. Maggie has always suspected that prom is the work of the devil, but it looks like her attendance will be mandatory. Sometimes a girl's got to do some pretty undesirable things if she wants to save her town from soul-crushing demons from hell and the cheerleading squad."

PROM NIGHTS FROM HELL by Meg Cabot, Stephenie Meyer, Kim Harrison, Lauren Myracle, Michele Jaffe (HarperCollins, 2006). From the promotional copy: "From angels fighting demons to a creepy take on getting what you wish for, these five stories will entertain better than any DJ in a bad tux. No corsage or limo rental necessary. Just good, scary fun."

RED IS FOR REMEMBRANCE by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Llewellyn, 2006)(author interview). From the promotional copy: "Nothing has been the same for eighteen-year-old Stacey since her boyfriend Jacob died. For months she stayed at the beach cottage they shared before Jacob's tragic accident, refusing to give up hope that somehow, somewhere, Jacob was still alive. But Stacey knows she can't put off rejoining the world forever. Lucky to have a full scholarship to prestigious Beacon University, Stacey hopes she can finally put her past behind her. Trying to get through her first week of college as just another normal student, Stacey is devastated when she starts having more disturbing dreams. And keeping them secret is not an option when the college president calls her in for a private meeting--and reveals that his daughter Porsha is having nightmares too. But while Stacey dreams of a ghost, Porsha is dreaming of a murder she's convinced hasn't happened yet. Porsha's fragmented nightmares foretell a brutal murder, and may also shed light on a shocking revelation that could change Stacey's life forever. Together the two must decode their dark dreams to save a life--a risk that may cost them their own." Note: the entire BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series (Llewellyn, 2003-) by Laurie was recommended.

THE RIDDLE OF THE WREN by Charles De Lent (Firebird, 2002). From the promotional copy: "Minda Sealy is afraid of her own nightmares. Then, one night, while asleep, she meets Jan, the Lord of the Moors, who has been imprisoned by Ildran the Dream-master-the same being who traps Minda. In exchange for her promise to free him, Jan gives Minda three tokens. She sets out, leaving the safety of her old life to begin a journey from world to world, both to save Jan and to solve 'the riddle of the Wren'--which is the riddle of her very self."

THE ROSE AND THE BEAST by Francesca Lia Block (1993). From the author site: "Beauty, Snow White, Rose Red—you've met them all in many incarnations. But you haven't met Charm or Snow or Tiny, not as Francesca has imagined them. Within her singular, timeless landscapes, the brutal and the beautiful collide. Here, the heroine triumphs because of the strength she finds in a pen, a paintbrush, a lover, a friend, a mother, and, finally, herself."

THE SILVER KISS by Annette Curtis Klause (Delacorte, 1990)(author interview). A haunting story of love between Zoe and Simon, a vampire. She wrestles with the impending death of her mother while he seeks to avenge the murder of his. A look at love and death with no easy answers or conveniently happy endings. Note: Annette's short story "Summer of Love" is a tie-in to THE SILVER KISS and may be found in THE COLOR OF ABSENCE: 12 STORIES ABOUT LOSS AND HOPE edited by James Howe (Atheneum, 2001). Fans of Annette Curtis Klause may want to check out her most recent release FREAKS! ALIVE ON THE INSIDE (McElderry/Simon & Schuster, 2006)(author interview)(excerpt).

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. Note: the title is listed as in print on the author site but I couldn't find any additional information.

TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007). Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her hybrid-werewolf first love threatens to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. And just as she and her uncle are about to debut Austin's red hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform the new hire into a culinary dark lord before opening night? Will Henry Johnson be able to wow the crowd in fake fangs, a cheap cape, and red contact lenses? Or is there more to this earnest fresh face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who's playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything?

THIRSTY by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick, 1997)(excerpt). In a world where everybody knows vampires really exist, Chris finds himself becoming one. It's hard enough dealing with his family, the growing distance between him and his friends, and the enigmatic quality of the girl his likes. Then an entity calling himself "Chet" ask Chris to help save humanity. But it's not clear if Chet is really on the side of good or evil, and with each passing day, Chris finds himself growing more thirsty. A must-read for vampire comedy fans.

TITHE: A MODERN FAEIRE TALE by Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, 2002)(author interview). Kaye Fierch has been passing through life as a blond Asian, connecting with fairies but not counting herself among them...until now. Excellent juxtaposition of the fantasy elements against the New Jersey setting. Some readers may be familiar with Black from the Spiderwick Chronicle Series (for the younger set). Don't miss the companion book, VALIANT: A MODERN TALE OF FAERIE (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer (Little Brown, 2005)(author interview). From the promotional copy: ""Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife—between desire and danger." Don't miss the companion book, NEW MOON (Little Brown, 2006), and look for the forthcoming ECLIPSE (Little Brown, 2007).

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld (Simon & Schuster, 2003)(author interview)(excerpt). From the author site: "UGLIES is the first book of the trilogy. The second book is PRETTIES and the third is SPECIALS. It's about a world in which everyone has an operation when they turn sixteen, making them supermodel beautiful. Big eyes, full lips, no one fat or skinny. This seems like a good thing, but it's not. Especially if you're one of the uglies, a bunch of radical teens who've decided they want to keep their own faces. (How anti-social of them.)" Read Scott's blog.

VAMPIRATES: DEMONS OF THE OCEAN by Justin Somper (Little Brown). From the promotional copy: "Twins, Connor and Grace, never dreamed that there was any truth to the Vampirate shanty their father sang to them before he died, but that was before the two were shipwrecked and separated from each other. For Connor, who is taken aboard a pirate ship, there's the chance to learn to sword-fight, but for Grace, aboard a mysterious ship of vampire pirates, the danger is great. The twins want more than anything to find each other, but their time is limited and they're an ocean apart." Visit the UK edition site. Note: middle grade novel.

THE VAMPIRE'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER by S.P. Somtow (Atheneum, 1997). From the promotional copy: "Life isn't easy for Johnny Shapiro, despite his mother's success as the author of a book about his Lakota grandfather. He finds it hard to 'fit in' in his new school--until he meets Rebecca, a new student as well, and the half-human daughter of a vampire."

VAMPIRE HIGH by Douglas Rees (Delacorte, 2003). From the promotional copy: "It doesn’t take long for Cody Elliot to realize that his new high school is a little different. The other students are supernaturally strong, don’t like the sunlight, and are always placing orders at the local blood bank. When his new friend shows him his fangs, Cody doesn’t need any more clues—these kids are vampires! As Cody struggles to fit into this secretive community, he disrupts centuries of human-vampire segregation, with some serious—and some seriously funny—consequences."

VAMPIRE KISSES by Ellen Schreiber (HarperCollins, 2003)(excerpt). From the promotional copy: " In her small town dubbed 'Dullsville,' sixteen-year-old Raven-a vampire-crazed, goth-girl-is an outcast. But not for long... The intriguing and rumored-to-be haunted mansion on top of Benson Hill has stood vacant and boarded-up for years. That is, until its mysteriously strange new occupants move in. Who are these creepy people-especially the handsome, dark and elusive Alexander Sterling? Or rather, what are they? Could the town prattle actually ring true? Are they vampires? Raven, who secretly covets a vampire kiss, both at risk of her own mortality and Alexander's loving trust, is dying to uncover the truth." Don't miss the companion books, KISSING COFFINS (2005)(excerpt) and VAMPIREVILLE (2006)(excerpt), both from HarperCollins.

WITCH'S NIGHT OUT by Silver Ravenwolf (Llewellyn, 2000). From the promotional copy: "After her boyfriend is killed in a car accident under suspicious circumstances, Bethany and the other members of her coven try to use the power of Wicca to solve the mystery."

WUTHERING HIGH (A Bard Academy Novel) by Cara Lockwood (excerpt)(Simon & Schuster, 2006). From the promotional copy: "When Miranda, a slightly spoiled but spirited fifteen-year-old from Chicago, smashes up her father's car and goes to town with her stepmother's credit cards, she's shipped off to Bard Academy, a boarding school where she's supposed to learn to behave. Gothic and boring and strict, All Is Not What It Seems At Bardit's everything you'd expect of a reform school. But all is not what it seems at Bard. For starters, Miranda's having horrific nightmares and the nearby woods are eerily impossible to navigate. The students' lives also start to mirror the classics they're reading tragic novels like Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. So Miranda begins to suspect that Bard is haunted by famous writers who took their own lives and she senses that not all of them are happy. Complicating things even more is the fact that Ryan Kent a cute, smart, funny basketball player who went to Miranda's old high school landed himself in Bard, too. And the attention he's showing Miranda is making some of the other girls white as ghosts. Something ghoulish is definitely brewing at Bard, and Miranda seems to be at the center of ominous events, but whether it's typical high school b.s. or otherworldly danger remains to be seen." Don't miss the companion book, THE SCARLET LETTERMAN (Simon & Schuster, 2007)(excerpt). Visit Cara online and at MySpace.

Additional Series Recommendations

Caroline Cooney's VAMPIRE'S PROMISE series; Alex Duval's VAMPIRE BEACH series; James Patterson's MAXIMUM RIDE series; Christopher Pike's LAST VAMPIRE series; L.J. Smith's NIGHTWORLD series, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES series, FORBIDDEN GAME trilogy, and THE SECRET CIRCLE trilogy; Cate Tiernan's the BALEFIRE series and SWEEP series.

Cynsational Notes

Readers may also find additional suggestions and related commentary in NOT YOUR MOTHER'S VAMPIRE: VAMPIRES IN YOUNG ADULT FICTION by Deborah Wilson Overstreet (Scarecrow Press, 2006)(author interview).

In addition, my research bibliographies for TANTALIZE are online.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Author-Editor Interview: Harold Underdown on The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books

Harold Underdown on Harold Underdown: "I was born in Sewanee, Tennessee, home of the University of the South, and my family moved around on the East Coast as my dad moved into different jobs in his field--English History. I'm the oldest of three boys.

"We also spent one year and some summers in England, and I read a lot, both US and UK authors. See The Editor as Reader, on my site, which goes into my childhood reading in more detail.

"I was an English major in college, but did not go straight into publishing, unlike many editors. I taught and did social work before deciding that being involved in making books was something that appealed to me."

Could you fill us in on your experience as a children's book editor?

I started out at Macmillan Children's Books, nearly twenty years ago, as an assistant. Macmillan at that time was a large, general-purpose imprint with a long history, that published everything from reference books for children to the youngest picture books. Good mentors there--Neal Porter, Judith Whipple, Beverly Reingold. I worked there for a few years, and then at Orchard, got downsized, freelanced for a while, and then had a great job at Charlesbridge as senior editor and then editorial director.

The only problem with that wonderful job at Charlesbridge was that I was commuting to Boston from Brooklyn, and I left that job so that my wife and I could start a family. I worked for a start-up children's ebook company until it went bankrupt, and since then have returned to freelancing, doing projects both for individuals and publishing companies.

See a list, somewhat out-of-date, of some of the books I've edited.

You're also the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books (Second Edition)(Alpha, 2004)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this title?

The inspiration wasn't mine, actually! I was contacted by an editor from the company that publishes the Idiot's Guides. They had done a guide on publishing in general, and after they succeed with a broad subject they often publish guides on smaller parts of that wider topic. Once they come up with a subject, the find someone who they think can write about it. I believe that they found me through The Purple Crayon, saw that I was already providing basic information about children's publishing, and thought I'd be a good match.

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

By the time the Idiot's editor contacted me, they were already running late--the book was on their schedule for early spring 2001 and she first emailed me in late March of 2000!

Once we sorted out the contract, the first major event was the outline. This is standard procedure for these guides. The author does a detailed outline--in my case over ten pages long--which becomes the blueprint for the book. And then my coauthor and I just wrote. it was all done electronically. We started writing in May, and finished the manuscript by the beginning of November. And the book was on sale by February 2001.

The second edition was not quite as hectic.

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

One big challenge for me was just finding time to write! I was working at Charlesbridge at the time. I wrote in the evenings. I wrote all weekend.

Writing fast was also a challenge for me. I don't write fast, usually. But having the outline helped. Some of the chapters were about things I do every day, and I could almost write them straight from the outline. Others did require research and anecdote gathering but I knew where to go to gather the information I needed.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, was believing that I could write a 300-page book, since I'd never written anything anywhere near that length before. The Idiots provided a co-author, who drafted some of the chapters, and that did help, but since she wasn't as familiar with the field as I am I still had to review everything.

What advice do you have for beginning children's book writers?

Well, they'll find a lot on The Purple Crayon, but here are a few key points:

--Understand that it will take time and persistence to get anywhere. Be ready to stick it out.

--Join the SCBWI. Go to a local conference. Get to know other writers. It helps enormously to have a support network.

--Write, write, and write some more. Don't accept "good enough." Get your writing critiqued by a pro at a conference or elsewhere before deciding it's ready to be sent in.

--Get three books to start your writing shelf: a market guide, a writer's "how-to," and a guide to the business such as my book.

--Read lots of recently published books to get a sense of what's being published today in the market.

How about those authors building a career?

Now, that's hard. I don't think there's even one piece of advice that will apply to everyone in that situation. But here is something worth keeping in mind: you're a professional writer, and don't let anyone treat you as anything less.

You're the creator of The Purple Crayon, a site dedicated to writing, illustrating, and publishing children's books. For those new to it, could you give us an overview?

The site consists mostly of articles I've written or that have been contributed. These are organized by subject matter, from Basics to Writing, on about a dozen index pages (all listed here: I also have a blog, a publishing glossary (from my Idiot's Guide), some interviews, some book reviews, a section about award-winning children's books, information about my editorial services, and some links pages, but the articles are the core of the site.

How did the site evolve?

That's a long story. It's been around since the early years of the Web. I started it with some links and a few articles and presentations that I converted to HTML, and it's just grown since then. People ask questions, and sometimes an article comes out of that, or someone sends me an article on a topic that the site doesn't cover. So I've just kept adding, and occasionally reorganizing.

As a children's literature person, what else do you do? Other hats do you wear?

Gee, isn't three hats enough? Well, I haven't said much about my work as an editorial freelancer and consultant, actually. The Purple Crayon and The Idiot's Guide are not my full-time work. Editing is. I do everything from picture book critiques to editing and project managing teacher's editions of textbooks.

Also, I speak at conferences, which I enjoy.

What do you do outside of the book world?

I try to make sure my family is happy. We have a child in kindergarten, who over the past several months has learned to read, mostly on her own initiative. I stay involved with that. It's satisfying and challenging and nothing at all like any job I've ever had.

In case you're wondering, being a father hasn't changed how I approach my work as an editor. I've greatly enjoyed discovering books I didn't know about, though, and re-discovering favorites from my childhood. The Editor as Reader, which I mentioned earlier, goes into some of the discoveries.

What can we expect from you next?

Eventually, I'll be back in an acquiring position at a publisher. That could happen tomorrow or five years from now.

And you can expect a new edition of my Idiot's Guide. I'll announce details on my web site and via an email newsletter I put out occasionally.
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