Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cynsational News & Links

A Revision Story by David Macinnis Gill at I am Chikin, Hear Me Roar. Here's a sneak peek: "Writing a first draft creates a sense of euphoria for me. I get a sustained rush learning about new characters, exploring new settings, and thinking of really bad puns that never get past the third edits. Well, some do. But the creation of a first draft has a dark side."

"Let's Talk about Sex" by Sarah Aronson at Through the Tollbooth kicks off a multi-post conversation. Here's a sneak peek: "Sex in YA lit is not exactly a new topic. Whether we are 'pro sex' or 'against sex,' I think it's pretty hard to write a YA novel and not have to deal with it, in one way or another. Whether a character wants to have sex, wants to abstain, or is falling in love, sex is omnipresent in the teen protagonist! Our young characters, like the young people we were, like young people today, are bombarded with images of sex. It is difficult to come of age without considering what sex means." Series includes an interview with author Tanya Lee Stone, "Nuts and Bolts," and "Reaching the Climax" (yes, that's what she titled it). Read Cynsations interviews with Sarah and Tanya.

"How Far is Too Far" by Helen Hemphill at Through the Tollbooth kicks off another important topic--violence in youth literature. Here's a sneak peek: "I'm not really opposed to violence in young adult fiction. My mantra is if it serves the story, use it...But just how far am I willing to go with it? How much raw detail am I willing to express on the page? How much psychic distance am I willing to give the reader?"Series includes Questions of Violence and more. Read a Cynsations interview with Helen.

Interview: Mary E. Pearson from Teen Book Review. Here's a sneak peek: "I really don't think of the teen years as a stage, as many people do, but the beginning of this long stage we call adulthood that is always in a state of change. You don't finish the teen years and suddenly become this static adult. You continue to evolve." Read a Cynsations interview with Mary.

River Friendly River Wild by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Neil Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2000). An exquisitely written and illustrated picture book of poems inspired by Kurtz's own family's experience during the flood in Grand Forks. Winner of the 2000 Golden Kite Award. Ages 6-up. Read a related Cynsations interview with Jane. Here's a sneak peek: "When I got back to Grand Forks and dug into the mess, I found that it felt just right to peel off my yellow gloves from time to time and jot down phrases that captured a little of what I was going through." See also classroom connections for this book.

Author School Visits by State: a state-by-state listing, not a booking service, from Kim Norman, author of Jack of all Tails, illustrated by David Clark (Dutton, 2007). Note: traditionally published authors may write Kim for a free listing; see details at blog. Source: Children's Book Biz News @ Yahoogroups. Read a Cynsations interview with Kim.

Congratulations to Julie Larios on the publication of Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures, illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Harcourt, 2008). From the promotional copy: "Who is half gallop, half walk? Who can turn you to stone with one look? Whose voice do you hear in the splash on the shore? Centaurs, mermaids, and other curious creatures populate these wondrous poems and paintings, inspired by a mythological world full of imagination and mystery. Includes end notes about cultures and legends." Ages 4-up. Read a Cynsations interview with Julie Larios.

Industry News & Thoughts

Michael Stearns Leaving Harper to Be an Agent from Alice's CWIM Blog. Note: Michael is joining Nadia Cornier at Firebrand Literary. Best wishes to Michael in his new career!

[Editor] Allyn Johnston Leaving Harcourt from Alice's CWIM Blog. Alice says: "Reading her piece, feeling her love of picture books, getting a glimpse of what an insightful editor she is, made me sad to think that someone who it seems was put on this earth to edit books for young readers could be let go as a result of a corporate merger (Houghton with Harcourt)." Read the whole post. Best wishes to Allyn in her next career move!

To those Harcourt authors/illustrators--especially new voices--who are going through this corporate merger with its resulting uncertainty and fallout: Please rest assured that others before you have survived similar circumstances, we're all behind you, and if you're feeling really stressed, you're welcome to write me. Hang in there!

Reminder

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 series is ongoing here at Cynsations! Check back Monday for more interviews with authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, agents, and more from the U.S. and around the world.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cynsational News & Links

City of Ashes by Cassanda Clare (Book Two: The Mortal Instruments)(McElderry, 2008) is the first CosmoGirl book club pick, and in celebration, the magazine is offering an "exclusive alternate chapter" by Cassandra, among other cool features. Read a Cynsations interview with Cassandra.

Hot Off the Press: A Sneak Peek at Publishers' Newest and Hottest Titles from CBC Magazine. Featured books include Attack of the Turtle by Drew Carlson (Eerdmans, 2008), A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Arthur A. Levine, 2008)(above), and Magic Pickle Vs. the Egg Poacher by Scott Morse (Graphix, 2008).

Human Oddity: a new blog from author Annette Curtis Klause. Annette is the award-winning author of Alien Secrets (Delacorte, 1993), The Silver Kiss (Delacorte, 1990), Blood and Chocolate (Delacorte, 1999), and most recently, Freaks: Alive on the Inside (Simon & Schuster, 2006). Read a Cynsations interview with Annette.

Q&A with Mary E. Pearson by Sue Corbett from Publishers Weekly. Here's a sneak peek: "I wanted the world to be believable but I had to be careful not to date the book and not to make it read like a science textbook. It required me to learn a lot of stuff about medical technology and ethics and then forget it so I could write the story." Read Cynsations interviews with Mary and Sue.

LGBT Children's/YA Book Nominees for the Lambda Literary Awards include: Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Random House)(interview with David); Hear Us Out! by Nancy Garden (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)(author interview); Split Screen by Brent Hartinger (Harper Collins Children's Books)(author interview); Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend by Carrie Jones (Flux)(author interview); God Box by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster)(author interview); Bloom by Elizabeth Scott (Simon & Schuster); and Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster)(author interview).

Congratulations to debut author Elizabeth C. Bunce on the release of A Curse Dark as Gold (Arthur A. Levine, 2008). From the promotional copy: "As Charlotte struggles to manage the difficulties she inherits along with Stirwaters Woollen Mill, she discovers a shadow world at the fringes of the familiar: Dark magic, restless spirits, a mysterious Helper. A wicked uncle, an age-old curse.... How can Charlotte prevail with such forces allied against her? In this novel inspired by "Rumpelstiltskin," the miller's daughter of the fairy tale comes to life as a young woman determined to save her family and her mill--whatever the cost." Visit the Class of 2k8.

Congratulations to P. J. Hoover on signing with Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and congratulations to Laura for signing P. J.!

Pickled Pixel Toe offers: "Writing and illustrating humor and inspiration. Funny shirts to wear to conferences." Source: Editorial Anonymous. Note: reminder to conference planners, review etiquette.

On Blogging: Tips for Newbies: an interview with Mitali Perkins by Taylor Rogers, Publicity Assistant at Charlesbridge Books, at Mitali's Fire Escape. Here's a sneak peek: "I'm not a big name and was previously known only marginally as a 'multicultural' author. The blog has given me a chance to introduce my humor (or so I call it), views, and vision more widely; I'm convinced it's brought down walls, erased preconceptions, and opened hearts and minds to my voice in fiction."

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #69: Kadir Nelson from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Here's a sneak peek: "I am very adamant about depicting historical subjects accurately. The challenge is in finding a new way to present the subject. That's the fun of it for me."

28 and Beyond: It Chicks by Tia Williams: a discussion by Paula Chase-Hyman from The Brown Bookshelf. Here's a sneak peek: "...the mainstream doesn't have the market cornered on the antics of students of privilege. What It Chicks does is give readers a peek into a world they’ve likely never been a part of and likely never will be beyond literature or television." Read a Cynsations interview with the founders of The Brown Bookshelf.

Woodchuck Attack! An interview with Dan Elish by Lisa Graff from The Longstockings. Here's a sneak peek: "I started my career writing slightly over the top, Roald Dahlesque children's novels but had gotten away from writing that kind of book for a number of years. Fortunately, an editor at Harper Collins, Jill Santopolo, read one of my early books, The Worldwide Dessert Contest, and suggested that I try and come up with some sort of new zany novel."

"On Keeping Score," an original essay, by Linda Sue Park from Powells.com. Here's a sneak peek: "Writing about Maggie's love for the Dodgers enabled me to explore perhaps the greatest era baseball has ever known--the post-war years." Read a Cynsations interview with Linda Sue.

Congratulations to debut author Debbi Michiko Florence on a successful launch of China: A Kaleidoscope Kids Book, illustrated by Jim Caputo, (Williamson Books, 2008)! Check out the pre-party, setting up, the signing, and the end! Debbi says: "I have many special memories I'll keep with me forever from my book party/signing." Note: I wish I could've been there!

Congratulations to Bonny Becker on the success of A Visitor for Bear, illustrated by Kady McDonald Denton (Candlewick, 2008)(interior spread). From the promotional copy: "Bear is quite sure he doesn't like visitors. He even has a sign. So when a mouse taps on his door one day, Bear tells him to leave. But when Bear goes to the cupboard to get a bowl, there is the mouse--small and gray and bright-eyed. In this slapstick tale that begs to be read aloud, all Bear wants is to eat his breakfast in peace, but the mouse--who keeps popping up in the most unexpected places--just won't go away! Cheery persistence wears down a curmudgeonly bear in a wry comedy of manners that ends in a most unlikely friendship." In a starred review, School Library Journal cheered, "The lively repetition and superb pacing make this an ideal choice for storytime." Note: learn more about Bonny from Adams Literary.

Video Sunday: Trailers, Cats, and Calligraphy by Elizabeth Bird at a Fuse #8 Production. Note: I particularly enjoyed the Harry Potter fandom video. Very entertaining!

Online Children's Writing Classes

Author Anastasia Suen is offering two online workshops in April for adults who want to write for children. She is the "the author of 106 books: two board books, 37 picture books, 34 easy readers, 18 hi-lo books, 14 middle grade books, and Picture Writing (Writer's Digest Books). Anastasia has been teaching since 1977." The classes will include:

Intensive Picture Book Workshop from March 31 to April 25. "Learn the basics of writing a picture book. Each workshop includes three critiques and is limited to five students."

Picture Book Poetry Workshop from March 31 to April 25. "Celebrate Poetry Month by reading and writing poetry! (The second week is devoted to stories in rhyme.) Each workshop includes three critiques and is limited to five students."

Source: Children's Book Biz News @ Yahoogroups. Read a Cynsations interview with Anastasia.

Reminder

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 series is ongoing here at Cynsations! Check back Monday for more interviews with authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, agents, and more from the U.S. and around the world.

Don't miss this week's interview with YA author Kathleen Duey, who said, "I have a MySpace page with, like seven or eight friends. Please, anyone, befriend me. There is lots of room at my lunch table." Note: MySpacers, send Kathleen some love!

Here's more good news: Charlesbridge editor Yolanda LeRoy, who was a late addition to the Bologna faculty, will be added to next week's interview roster!

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Query

I have a request for the "cumulative brain." I'm making an effort to put together a list of blogs that feature children's-and-YA-author interviews, another for YA-author interviews only, and another for children's-author interviews only. Please email me with your blog recommendations in each category!

Also, among those who feature recommendations/reviews, I'm interested in compiling a list of those to whom books may be sent directly (with contact information and any stimulations). Again, please email me with applicable information! Thanks!

More Personally

My favorite comic of the week was Wonder Woman #18 (DC, May 2008): "Return of the Khund!" It's no secret that, while the art is usually fantastic, over the years Wonder Woman as a character has suffered as writers seem to struggle with offering a strong, smart, peace-loving warrior who doesn't come off as wooden or preachy. I'm pleased to report that these days the Amazon princess is mighty and good-hearted with a refreshing sense of humor that grounds the character and makes her more accessible. On another note, if you're not already reading "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon's Season Eight" (Dark Horse), I'm pleased to report that, in issue #12, Dracula is back.

In other news, the Tantalize audio (Listening Library, 2008) is available at iTunes!

I'm also pleased to announce that the prose version of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) has been named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age 2008! I'm hugely honored!

Reminder: this month you can enter to win a hardcover copy of Tantalize from the Imperial Beach Teen Blog of the Imperial Beach Library in Imperial Beach, California. Runner-ups will receive an author-signed bookmark!

Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) is listed among recommended titles in an extensive bibliography that follows "Culturally Speaking: Mixed Ethnicity" by Sherry York, which appears in the February 2008 issue of Library Media Connection. Sherry says: "Children and young adults of mixed heritage may find themselves and their families reflected in literature. Others can experience vicariously the lives of these fictional and real-life individuals."

Of late, I took the challenge to offer up 15 odd trivia facts about myself and tagged a few local friends. The latest entry comes from Jennifer at Jennifer Ziegler Word Processor. Here's a sneak peek: "I once made the New York Times' Bestseller List. Swear to god honest. On November 3, 2002, I made it to number ten on Children's Paperbacks. It was for a mass market prequel novel based on the TV show 'Alias.' The story was called Alias: Recruited and was published under my pen name Lynn Mason. Note: trust me when I say the previous admission pales beside Jennifer's discussion of the mysterious "Pig-Dog." Read a Cynsations interview with Jennifer, and don't miss the previous posts! Don at Devas T Rants and Raves answered with 15 Random Things, Jo at Jo's Journal responded with 15 for Team, and Alison at Alison's Journal shared her own Funky 15.

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Author-Illustrator Interview: Jana Novotny Hunter

Jana Novotny Hunter was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in the U.K. She has written more than 50 books, including the award-winning Read My Lips. She lives by the River Thames with her dog and a piano. She was interviewed by Anita Loughrey in November 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

Are you a writer as well as an illustrator? If so, which comes first the images or the words?

JNH: As an author, I have about fifty books published, but I have not had any of my illustrated books published yet--my first series was canceled right at the last minute! I have illustrated for children's TV. As an illustrator, the words usually come first.

Do you have favorite medium you work in? If so, did the medium choose you or did you choose it? Can you elaborate?

JNH: I like to use acrylics to get a broad painterly stroke and then continue working in Photoshop. I like the strong graphic feel, and I enjoy the freedom of speed and experimentation working with technology brings.

What are you currently working on?

JNH: A picture book concerning the anxieties and bonding of step-families.

If you were to illustrate yourself, what would you look like?

JNH: A young, slim gazelle! (I just love fantasy, don't you?)

What is the hardest thing about being an author-illustrator?

JNH: My pictures don't always live up to my expectations.

Did you always want to be an author-illustrator?

JNH: I started off wanting to illustrate and went to art school to do just that. But the writing somehow took over.

What were your other career choices, if any?

JNH: I was a textile designer and an art teacher. Now, I'm an editor. I love them all, but writing books has to be the best.

Do you have a favorite children’s book that you wish you had written and/or illustrated? Why?

JNH: I wish I'd written Where the Wild Things Are. It's such an amazing example of dealing with childhood feelings and Sendak's drawing skills are superb.

How far ahead do you work? Six months? A year? Longer?

JNH: Usually about six months, depending on the format I'm working on. A chapter book is usually full-steam ahead from conception to finished draft, but a picture book can hang around in my head for years before it gels.

Tell us about Bear Studios.

JNH: The illustrator Sue Porter and myself felt that authors and illustrators worked in such isolation, it would be wonderful to have a meeting place to discuss work in progress and share ideas. We were soooo right!

What inspired you to write Read My Lips?

JNH: My brother and sister are both deaf, yet chose opposing ways of communication, with profound repercussions. I wanted to explore this division further in the deaf community and saw the war within a school for the deaf as a parallel to other marginalized groups that break down into minority factions.

Can you tell us briefly a little bit about your views on the relationship between illustrations and text in picture books?

JNH: The two elements should act like different instruments exploring the same music, sometimes one playing the main theme and then the other taking over. Both are of equal importance and can work in harmony or as a reaction to one another.

What does your work space look like?

JNH: Crammed with books and very cozy. It used to be a whole building, but since I moved to London, space is a premium.

What's on your wall over your desk or drawing table?

JNH: Bookshelves with dolls and toys and colorful objects, jostling with the books. And often the story sentence of the book I'm working on.

How has your childhood influenced your illustrations and writing?

JNH: Like many people involved in children's books, I didn't have an idealized childhood, and I am always seeking to redress that balance by creating a secure world for children.

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent?

JNH: I loved Anne of Green Gables for her imagination, lack of traditional prettiness, and use of big words. I admired the way she always tried to be good and failed. I suspected she was me.

Do you work with the television, radio, or stereo on? In cafés, nursing a half-cup of lukewarm tea, or in isolation?

JNH: I'm quite strict about silence and a good work ethic. But then I confound myself by coming up with my best ideas on the train or while I'm driving.

Do you have a blog or website to showcase your work, and if so, how often do you blog? Do you get a lot of feedback from readers? Has it proved to be useful?

JNH: I share a lovely website with a small group of illustrators/authors which is fairly new. It's called Wiggly Pencil. Visit it, and give me feedback, please!

If you could be a character from one of your illustrations, who would you like to be and why?

JNH: I'd like to be Kendra, my dreamy little brown girl who dresses as a cat. She is so wild and different.

Is it difficult to illustrate somebody else's writing? Has it ever caused any problems?

JNH: It is, but I can answer this better the other way around and say I have sometimes been aghast at how an artist has illustrated my writing. It doesn't help that I have such vivid pictures in my mind of how it should look. How can they ever get it right with such a premise, poor things?

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 32 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Ltd.

Ginger Clark is a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. in New York. She represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, paranormal chick-lit, literary horror, and young adult and middle grade fiction. In addition to representing her own clients, she also represents U.K. rights for the agency's children's list. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and pet chinchillas. Anita Loughrey interviewed Ginger in February 2008, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What is the book or experience that made you want to work in children's literature as a literary agent?

I was always a big reader as a child and teen, and sometime during high school I decided I wanted to be a writer. However, I realized that it would be very tough to do that and earn a living--so at first I thought I would be a lawyer to pay the bills and write in my spare time.

After spending several summers working for lawyers, I realized that law probably was not the field for me--and so I interned for a medical publisher in Philadelphia during my last summer in college. I liked it a lot. When I graduated a year later, I moved to New York and have worked in trade publishing since. And I no longer want to be a writer myself.

So to answer your question (finally!), there was no one specific book or experience that made me want to be an agent. More just an intense love of reading and books from an early age. I do remember being about age 5 or 6 and reading a picture book to myself for the first time at the local library, and how powerful and independent I felt doing that.

How did you get your start as an agent?

My second job in publishing was working as an assistant to an agent at Writers House. I started taking on clients within a year and a half of starting and then built my list during the rest of my time there. When I moved to Curtis Brown in the fall of 2005, I took almost all of my clients with me.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

It begins by spelling my name correctly! There is a sentence that sums up the plot nicely, along with a sentence or two as to why the author thinks I'd be the right agent for the book. Then, no more than two paragraphs of plot description. Then please suggest authors whose work yours is similar to.

Please also be correct as to what age group you are writing for. Fourteen-year olds are not interested in reading about ten-year olds, so your work is probably not YA or Teen, but middle grade.

Also, there is no such genre as sci-fi/fantasy. It's either science fiction or fantasy. (Unless it's science fantasy, and I can sense your head is exploding, so never mind!)

What kinds of things "turn you off" a manuscript right away?

Unrealistic dialogue is a big turn off for me. And this is key with writing for the children's market--kids are very good at picking out what is legit and what is not. They know when characters don't sound like themselves or their friends.

I also am not a fan of a lot of "info dump" early on in the manuscript--or really, at any point in the manuscript. World building and communicating background information can be conveyed by dialogue or interior monologue.

Now that you are handling U.K. rights to Curtis Brown's children's list does that mean you will be based in the U.K.?

No, no--it just means I will be going to London once a year to meet with editors, and also seeing many of them at Bologna. Most of my time will still be focused on handling my own clients and their needs. It does mean I will be learning an entirely different market, and what works and doesn't work there.

I'm just back from my first trip over to meet editors in London, and it was very productive and very educational.

And man, London is rather expensive. Though the chocolate and cheese are fabulous!

Do you specialize in any particular genre and/or are you looking for anything in particular (genre-wise) at the moment?

I do middle grade and young adult fiction. In particular, I'd love to see science fiction for either age group; young adult urban fantasy with a female lead; young adult military SF; and more fun, contemporary boy books. Also, young adult paranormal romance and chick-lit would be great as well. I'm also still a sucker for gorgeous writing and interesting, unusual characters.

What are publishers telling you about the market and what they'd like to see?

I think my above answer has some overlap here. I'm also hearing they want more middle grade series, that the picture book market is slightly recovering from the drop off a few years ago, and that young adult fantasy still sells, but it needs to be a little more fresh and different than, say, five years ago. And they'd like a good, fun science fiction series for middle grade or young adult.

From an agent's point of view, what are the "realities" of children's book publishing?

Kids are not reading as much and as widely as they did twenty years ago. I could spend an hour discussing why I think this is the case, but it's a fundamental reality.

However, there is a lot more variety in terms of subject matter and adult subject matter than there was when I was a child.

One series that is represented by another agent here at Curtis Brown, The Squad (by Jennifer Lynn Barnes) is about cheerleaders who are secretly spies for the CIA. It is exciting, funny, and a blast to read. I wish I had had something like this when I was young!

Publishing in general is a smaller market than it used to be, so writers need to be realistic about how much money they can make, and how long it could take to build an audience successfully. Patience is required, as is a day job.

Cynsational Notes

See also a previous Cynsations interview with Ginger Clark.

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Author-Illustrator Interview: Marie Wabbes

Marie Wabbes' first picture book was published by Ecole des Loisirs more than 42 years ago. Since then, she has produced over 175 picture books that have been published worldwide. Other interests include breeding Arabian horses and working with African illustrators, guiding them to produce their own picture books. Anita Loughrey interviewed Marie in January, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

Are you a writer as well as an illustrator and, if so, which comes first the images or the words?

MW: First the words, as I started in life working as a journalist, working for fifteen years for a newspaper called the le Soir in Brussels. The illustrations come later. I've always wanted to be an author-illustrator.

What were your other career choices, if any?

MW: Well, I am the mother of four children. I bred Arabian horses, and I am still an international judge for these horses. I have to travel the world to the shows.

Do you have favorite medium you work in? If so, did the medium choose you or did you choose it? Can you elaborate?

MW: When I started illustrating, the fashion was ink and watercolor. Later, I decided to use a marker to have a more dynamic drawing effect. The color and lines came together like in the Little Rabbit books. Next, I started drawing portraits of teddy bears in pastel and gouache and started illustrating my books with the same medium.

At the moment, I am writing another book about a teddy and a little boy who is convinced his teddy is really alive.

If you were to illustrate yourself, what would you look like?

MW: I would see myself as a kitchen garden full of flowers and vegetables. If I could be any character from one of my illustrations I would be a teddy bear, to be cuddled and loved. I have a collection of old, very much loved teddies. I could draw myself as one of them.

Do you have a favorite children’s book that you wish you had written and/or illustrated? Why?

MW: My favorite children's book is Babar, because the little elephant lives a happy life and is always positive. It is very French, a witness of the pre-war period in France.

How far ahead do you work? Six months, a year? Longer?

MW: Normally six months, but I have been "sitting" like a hen on her nest on some projects for years.

What is your workspace like?

MW: My workspace is a very nice studio facing my garden, very convenient. There is a picture of Babar on the wall above my desk and 3D painting white on white...a "Castellani" Italian painter and a drawing of TinTin's dog Milou. I always work with classical music. I love opera also.

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent?

MW: My favourite book was L’almanach du gai savoir by Colette Vivier. Later I discovered Barok Pimpol et Viginil by Simone Ratel. It is very funny and amusing.

How has your childhood influenced your illustrations and writing?

MW: It was the second-world-war. My father was a prisoner in Germany, and we were sent to a farm and I loved everything--the smell of the fresh baked bread, the cherries on the trees, the cows and hens, getting up early in the morning to go mushrooming...in the wet grass.

My illustrations are always fed by details coming from that world. I live in the country and still love it.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Author Interview: Kathleen Duey

Kathleen Duey is the author of more than 70 children's and young adult books, including historical fiction, nonfiction, picture books, and dark fantasy. She was one of the 2007 finalists for the National Book Award for Literature for Young People for her novel Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic. Kathleen writes for adults with a partner; they have a finished novel with an agent and a second work being optioned by HBO. She lives in San Diego County, California. Kathleen was interviewed by Anjali Amit and Anita Loughrey in November 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy). Note: see also a September 2007 interview with Kathleen from Cynsations.

Did you always want to be a writer?

KD: Yes. My fourth grade teacher encouraged me and got me started writing stories. Then an English teacher in high school made me promise I would keep writing and give it a serious try--which I finally did in my late thirties. Mrs. Fredericksen and Mr. Doohan. Bless 'em both.

What other jobs have you had (that led to being a writer)?

KD: All the work I have done--and all the play--inform my writing. Living off-grid for a long time shaped me, too. I missed a couple of decades of TV--probably a good thing.

What are you working on at the moment?

KD: Sacred Scars, the second in the Resurrection of Magic trilogy, is on the front burner. Two books for adults (written with a partner) are finished and agent shopping. A book/film project is expanding, a middle grade fantasy with uncommon elements is taking shape, and a few sparks that are just jumble files at this point seem to be growing.

If you could be a character from one of your books, who would it be and why this particular character?

KD: I identify very closely with all my characters, so in a way I have been all of them. I could live where Heart Avamir lives (The Unicorn's Secret). I did, in a weird way, but that's a whole story in itself.

How has your childhood influenced what you write?

KD: In every way. I grew up in rural places, was raised by rural parents. I tend to write historical fiction and fantasy...both usually low tech, in cultures where people are close to the soil.

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent?

KD: As a child, my parents bought me non-fiction, almost exclusively. The first novel I loved was Molly Make Believe--an old book I found in my great aunt's apartment. Then came Black Beauty and then all the Farley books.

In middle school, I discovered fantasy and SF and was astounded at the created worlds, the possibilities of speculation, the massive intellects of the writers. I still am.

Is there a book already published that you wish you had written? Why?

KD: No. I love many books. I do not covet them.

How long does it take you to write a book?

KD: Shortest: nine days. Longest: 15 years.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

KD: Sitting still, indoors--I hate it.

Do you work with the television, radio, or stereo on? In cafés, nursing a half-cup of lukewarm tea, or in isolation?

KD: I work alone, almost always, in my office at home. I often play music, quietly. Sometimes I prefer silence. If it is chilly, Rooibos tea is wonderful.

How much do you think a writer needs to market his/herself/the work? What do you suggest?

KD: I don't want a day job, so I market as much as I possibly can. People just need to figure out what is comfortable, what works for them.

I like travel, I love schools, speaking has become fun. I began as a nervous, two-puke speaker. I have improved vastly and now enjoy it.

Do you have a blog, and if so, how often do you blog? Do you get lots of feedback from readers?

KD: I get more email and letters and guest-book entries than I can keep up with. I try. I blog, but not as often as I should, even though I enjoy it. There is a blog on my website, too.

I have a MySpace page with, like seven or eight friends. Please, anyone, befriend me. There is lots of room at my lunch table.

I do try to be Web-present. It is hard to keep up with it and travel and write.

Can you share your favorite fan mail, if you have one?

KD: I love them all, I get five-to-10 a day, counting guest book, paper and, mostly email. I love knowing that kids like my books.

I get a dozen or so every year that say something like, "I don't like reading all that much, and I had never finished a book before yours..." and that thrills me.

A Resurrection of Magic has overtones of Faust. Do you feel that today's world has lost its magic and wonder, hence the need to have it resurrected?

I think people are in trouble, yes. I worry for my country, for the world. We do need wonder. But we desperately need common sense and a generational world view.

All the best books are autobiographical to some degree. Your life has been extraordinary--you dropped out of the mainstream and lived off the land for many years. That gave you a rich vein of knowledge to mine. What advice would you have for the nine-to-fivers for changing the dross of their life to gold?

KD: There is no dross. Not when it comes to writing. It is all grist. One of the best passages read at the National Book Awards readings was an incredibly funny and sharp 9-to-5 office cubicle story. It was very clear the author had spent years in that world.

You have written for all age groups from children to adults. What writing do you enjoy the most? Why write for children?

KD: I like writing for all age groups. I seem to thrive on variety. Writing for kids is an obvious choice for me. I like kids. And I am head over heels in love with the possibility of touching a child's (or a teen's) life the way mine was touched by books.

You write in a lot of different genres, such as historical, science fiction and fantasy, picture books, and non-fiction. Which genre do you prefer and why? Which was the most difficult?

KD: Every book presents different obstacles, various areas of clear sailing. I like every genre I have written in and intend to try more.

It's just the way my brain works; it's not a conscious business choice or a deliberate artistic decision. It is about the individual project for me, not the genre.

Whatever takes my breath away--that's what I want to write.

Courage features as a theme in many of your books. Is there a reason for this?

KD: Someone else pointed that out to me a few years ago. I can see a few really obvious connections in my life; there have been a number of emotional swamps I had to wade through--or drown.

But I think courage is a theme in nearly every book. Protagonists are by nature active, they are people who do, who try, who keep trying when hope has left the building. Courage is fascinating. I think it is the purest kind of faith.

Did the recent wildfires affect you?

KD: Here in southern California, while the rest of the country is having Fall, we have Fire Season instead. Like Tornado Season or Hurricane Season, it is always a time to be a little careful and to watch the sky.

This year the Santa Ana winds were extra dry (a lip-cracking 5% humidity in my town for several days), extra fierce (70 mph gusts) and in a few cases, arson and insane carelessness seems to have been involved.

The Rice Canyon fire came within about a half mile to the south east of my house, then, a few days later, came within about that same range from the northeast. The moon was orange for a week, and the smoke drifted, causing false dusks that lightened when the wind shifted, then returned when it changed direction again.

When the fires were headed our way, we were evacuated for four days and came home to soot and ash on everything. We were very grateful and very, very lucky. Over 200 homes in my town were burned to the ground.

I wrote about it at http://kathleenduey.blogspot.com/

At an SCBWI event, you described the research you undertook for your historical fiction. In one case, your expert did not have the information, but his grandmother was alive and could give the answers. Such accuracy certainly makes for a richer reading experience. Do you think it hampered your fiction writing in any way?

KD: Research never hampers my historical fiction. I use a lot of primary sources, and they always enrich, guide, inform. I have never once felt constrained by facts.

At the same conference, your advice to aspiring writers was "butt-in-chair." "Take the belt from your dressing gown and tie yourself to the chair. Do not get up till the writing is done." That is wicked discipline. Can you describe your writing schedule?

KD: What I said was that a terrycloth bathrobe tie--tied loosely across my thighs --reminded me to sit back down when I tried to stand up.

I have chronic ants-in-pants syndrome. I have a hard time sitting still and can find myself outside when I just meant to go get tea, then saw that the begonias out the front window were dry, and from there realized that the cycads needed water, which led me to check the avocados, turn the compost, play with the dogs, prune a tree....and suddenly, it's noon.

My schedule is simple: Full time--I just write full time.

Cynsational Notes

Anjali Amit is a children's book author whose first book was published when she was in college. Upon graduation she "sold her soul to Mammon"--went to work for a bank. She writes fiction, non-fiction and edits technical documents. Her articles have appeared in various magazines. Her second book, Bedtime Stories From Around the World was published a few years ago.

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

See also a Cynsations interview with Kathleen.

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Author-Illustrator Interview: Marc Boutavant

Marc Boutavant is a French graphic artist, illustrator, and children's book writer. He is the co-creator (with Emmanuel Guibert) of the ARIOL comic book series. Boutavant was interviewed in January 2008 by Anita Loughrey, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy). Note: more on Marc and Emmanuel.

Are you a writer as well as an illustrator and, if so, which comes first the images or the words?

MB: I find it easier to express myself through drawings than through words, so I think of myself as an illustrator.

Do you have favorite medium you work in? If so, did the medium choose you or did you choose it? Can you elaborate?

MB: My favorite medium for the last eight years has been the computer. I used to spend nights on acrylic works, and then I discovered the graphic tablet. Freedom! It introduced me to an easier way of drawing and use of color masses, printed-color control--and no archive and no old drawings to take from here to here...a great discovery.

I can also that add it made me improve--because since my eyes aren't watching my hand doing the drawing, it creates a distance between me and the work-in-progress, so I can be a bit less indulgent...

What are you currently working on?

MB: Ariol as usual, a sequel to Le Tout du Monde de Mouk, and an album with the publishing house Sarbacane.

If you were to illustrate yourself, what would you look like? (Please feel free to draw yourself -- animal, plant, or mineral!)

MB: In the morning I'd be that:


At night that:


What is the hardest thing about being an author-illustrator for you?

MB: I love illustrating. It's what I do to express myself. I reveal my thoughts on paper (screen). The hard thing is that illustrating keeps me from using a different part of my brain. But I'm working on it, trying to do both!

Did you always want to be an illustrator?

MB: Yes! But I didn't know such a thing existed! I grew up in a little village, "devouring" comics, but I thought they came from...nowhere!

When I was eight years old, a teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I did a comic on a single page, showing me growing, drawing, and moving to Paris.

After that, I didn't think about comics again until Emmanuel asked me to work on ARIOL. I had to consider it for a while because, for some reason, working on comic books was the last thing I wanted to do! But I wanted to work with Emmanuel, so I said, "Yes." And here I am, in Paris, drawing ARIOL and writing and illustrating children’s books!

What were your other career choices, if any?

MB: Doctor, or something with biology.

Do you have a favorite children’s book that you wish you had written and/or illustrated?

MB: My favorite book is Lettres de L'écureuil à La Fourmi by Toons Telegen. I would have loved to have created it, but I'm just as happy being able to look at the book. It remains a major reference for me, with its simple, yet powerful writing that produces such complicated feelings.

What does your workspace look like?

MB: A desk, mess on it, in a studio with six other people; their presence is important.

What's on your wall over your desk or drawing table?

MB: Letters waiting for postage stamps. Kids' drawings (not my kids). Kids' pictures (my kids). There's a mirror effect between the computer screen and the wooden desk.

How has your childhood influenced your illustrations and writing?

MB: The wallpaper of my childhood room did influence my style and themes, I guess.

What was your favorite book as a child or adolescent?

MB: As a child I loved this one:


Trois Tours de Renard, illustrated by Beuville.

After that, I loved: Barney Google and Snuffy Smith in Le journal de Mickey and Eagle Eye from Leo Baxendale. During adolescence, I was more into superheroes and other things.

Do you work with the television, radio, or stereo on? In cafés, nursing a half-cup of lukewarm tea, or in isolation?

MB: I switch between radio--silence--mp3--kids--silence.

If you could be a character from one of your illustrations, who would you like to be and why?

MB: This one or another similar one--they are breaks and breaths in my images, corresponding with a real need to breathe.

Is it difficult to illustrate somebody else's writing? Has it ever caused any problems?

MB: It's fine. It's like a gymnastic exercise to keep the muscles primed for what I love to do. What's scary is that these gymnastics will not get easier with age.

How did you become an illustrator?

MB: After trying to do different things, I eventually became an illustrator. It was when I found myself as an illustrator that I got excited about illustrating.

Could you talk us through the process of how, after you are presented with a book a publisher would like you to illustrate, you generate your ideas for illustrating that book?

I think I try to take inspiration from any and everywhere, but more often in the life of my children, or in the street, or on Google...an image, a mix of feeling+idea+color+view angle, that's the keystone for all the developing images.

Do you have to go through a different process to produce a comic book? If so, would you describe the differences?

The only comic book I do is ARIOL. Emmanuel gives me the words, and I draw life around the words. I follow Emmanuel's lead through the panels.

The difference between drawing for ARIOL and illustrating a non-comic is that the pleasure comes at the end; when ARIOL is finished, it's great to look at it and to have done it.

For non-comic book illustration, the pleasure is the process, the illustrating itself, because it calls on my own inspiration and for me to put it on paper (screen!).

Are there any illustrators whose work you particularly like or influenced you?

Anouk Ricard, Kitty Crother also, Lara Harwood...Annabel Wright, Maira Kalman, Axel Schaeffer--there are so many! My influences and inspiration come from many places--people, photographs, nature books, contemporary art...

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children's non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers' Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008's Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FUSION STORIES: New Novels For Young Readers To Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May 2008)

Newton, Mass.--Many new contemporary novels by Asian Americans aren't traditional tales set in Asia nor stories about coming to America for the first time. They're written by authors who understand two-time Newbery Honor Book author Lawrence Yep's (Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate (excerpt)) removal of the ethnic qualifier before his vocation. "I think of myself principally as a writer," Yep told the International Reading Association's The Dragon Lode. "I often write about my experiences as a Chinese American, but I've also written about far away worlds. Writing is a special way of seeing."

Without a doubt, an Asian American vision has moved into the mainstream of the children's literary world. In 1994, only 65 of the 5,500 children’s books published featured Asian American authors. Last year, that number doubled. Some of these have become national bestsellers that are guaranteed a place on bookshelves for years to come. Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard)(author interview) and Cynthia Kadohata (Kira Kira)(excerpt)(author interview) each won the prestigious Newbery Medal, while Allen Say (Grandfather's Journey) took home a Caldecott Prize. An Na (A Step From Heaven)(author interview) won the Printz, an award for young adult novels, and Gene Luen Yang garnered a National Book Award for his graphic novel, American Born Chinese.

In 2008, a wave of middle grade novels (ages 7-11) written by Asian Americans is already catching the attention of readers, teachers, librarians, and parents--and not just within multicultural circles. Children's literature experts are calling Grace Lin's (sequel to the popular Year of the Rat, Year of the Dog (author-illustrator interview)) a "classic in the making" along the lines of Betsy-Tacy. Janet Wong's forthcoming novel Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer (author interview) explores the joys of vacation and friendship, with Jake divulging that he's a "quarpa," or one-quarter Korean. Winner of the Sid Fleischman humor award, author Lisa Yee makes kids (and adults) laugh out loud with bestselling stories like Millicent Min: Girl Genius and her newest title, Good Luck, Ivy (author interview).

When it comes to books like these, as Newbery winner Linda Sue Park told author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize) during an on-line chat: "At last it seems we're getting ready to go to stories where a person's ethnicity is a part but not the sum of them."

New releases for teens, too, aren't mainly immigrant stories or traditional tales retold. These YA novels deal with universal themes such as a straight-A teen struggling with a cheating scandal at her school (She's So Money by Cherry Cheva), a promising athlete coping with a snowboarding injury (Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley (author interview)), and a Pakistani-born blogger whose father is about to become the president (First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins). An Na's The Fold, a novel about a teen considering plastic surgery to change the shape of her eyelids, speaks to all who long to be beautiful, and art-loving teens far and wide will connect with Joyce Lee Wong's novel-in-verse Seeing Eily. Paula Yoo, a one-time writer for People magazine and television hits like "The West Wing," fuses her pop culture savvy and love of music in Good Enough, a novel about a violinist in rebellion. Her brother, David Yoo, connected with hormone-crazed nerds of every race in his funny novel Girls For Breakfast and is offering his fans the forthcoming Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before.

Founder of readergirlz, a literacy initiative for teens (divas interview), award-winning author Justina Chen Headley notes that these books are relished by readers from many different backgrounds. "There are a ton of interesting cultural trends that make it cool to read about Asian American characters," she says. "Take manga and anime, for instance. Or Gwen Stefani's harujuku girls. Mainstream, popular celebrities from actors to athletes are Asian American, and this is filtering into YA and middle grade novels."

Dr. Sylvia Vardell, Ph.D., a professor at the School of Library and Information Services (author interview) at Texas Woman's University, isn't surprised either by the growing appetite for books featuring protagonists of every race: "Most kids live with ethnic and cultural diversity every day. It just makes sense that books for teens would reflect this too."

These stories continue to resonate with Asian American readers as well. Lisa Yee remembers the frustration of growing up and not finding many books about American girls like her. "When I grew up, there was no fiction featuring contemporary Asian Americans, unless of course the book was about the struggle of immigrants," she says. Thanks to exciting changes in children's book publishing, it's a different world for today's young readers of every cultural heritage with many choices when it comes to novels.

This year's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month begins May 1, 2008, and several authors are banding together to offer FUSION STORIES (www.fusionstories.com), a menu of delectable next-gen hot-off-the-press novels for middle readers and young adults. FUSION STORIES' critically acclaimed authors so far include Cherry Cheva (Los Angeles, CA), Justina Chen Headley (Seattle, WA), Grace Lin (Boston, MA), An Na (Montpelier, VT), Mitali Perkins (Boston, MA), Janet Wong (Princeton, NJ), Joyce Lee Wong (Los Angeles, CA), Lisa Yee (South Pasadena, CA), David Yoo (Boston, MA), and Paula Yoo (Los Angeles, CA).

FUSION STORIES aims to be a helpful resource for parents, educators, and young readers, so if you know of a novel that (1) is for middle readers or teens, (2) was published in 2007-2008 by a traditional publishing house, (3) features an Asian American protagonist, and (4) is set primarily in contemporary America, please send a .jpg of the cover, a .jpg of the author, one or two reviews, and a brief description of the novel to press@fusionstories.com. FUSION STORIES would be delighted to add titles and authors to the site.

A press kit package (available at FUSION STORIES, www.fusionstories.com) includes downloads, bios of FUSION STORIES authors, information on their books, and conversations with experts about Asian American literature for young readers. For more information, review copies, or interview requests with any of the authors, please contact press@fusionstories.com.

Cynsational Notes

Don't miss related interviews by Paula Yoo with Joe Bangilan, a Branch Services Coordinator for San Antonio Public Library; Sylvia Vardell, professor at the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University; Dora Ho, a young adult librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library; and Sarah Park, a Ph.D candidate at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Here are sneak peeks:

Joe says: "The United States has often defined itself in terms of Black and White, but Asians are emerging into the conversation. I believe mainstream acceptance is the goal."

Sylvia says: "The story or content may not be specifically culturally based, but there are still usually signs of the author's background in the voice, pacing, details, or art. I like that. I think it can offer as much distinction as any literary device."

Dora says: "Sometimes, the theme of immigration/language barriers/racism is not necessary in a good Asian American literature. Readers want to be able to identify with the characters in the books and many of them may not face that kind of discrimination."

Sarah says: "Multicultural literature is important for all teenagers because no one lives in a bubble. Reading about other people's experiences helps develop our empathetic sensibilities and broadens our world view. That's sorely lacking in our world today."
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