Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tantalize Giveaway at The Book Girl Reviews

The Book Girl Reviews: a Place for the Book Obsessed is sponsoring a giveaway of Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007, 2008). Peek: "By midnight EST on Friday July 25th, you have to write a short summary of your favorite YA book and post it here."

Cynsational Notes

Tantalize will be available in paperback July 22, and news about Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and additional books in the storyline/universe is coming soon!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win an autographed copy of A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (Delacorte, 2008)!

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll for address) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST July 28! Please also type "A Thousand Never Evers" in the subject line.
Read Shana's blog and a Cynsations interview with Shana. Visit Shana at MySpace!

Note: several additional Cynsations giveaways are ongoing! Scroll to check the rest (listed below).

More News & Links

Montpelier miracle: Novelist and Worcester native Thomas Greene creates a new college, Vermont College of Fine Arts by Pamela H. Sacks from the Worchester Telegram. Peek: Thomas Greene said: "What we had on our side was a strong mission and a strong vision. People got really jazzed and fired up about it. That vision provided our compass." Note: I teach in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program at VCFA.

Author and alumnae Helen Hemphill's VCFA residency report from Through the Tollbooth! Peek: "What was the most important thing I learned over the weekend? Beyond the complexities of plotting and character motivation (which I'm sure the Tollbooth will discuss in the coming weeks), it was the reminder that my work is to create meaning." Read a Cynsations interview with Helen. See also More From the Rez by Tami Lewis Brown.

Check out the third edition of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold Underdown (Alpha, May 2008)! In a blurb, which appears on the back of the book, I wrote: "My life would've been much easier if The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books had been available when I was getting started! It covers the whole territory--though I particularly like the sections on revision and 'the publishing maze.' Consider it your cheat-sheet to the world of children's publishing." Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Teen Writer Resources
: a collection of links from author Lesa Boutin.

Recommended Resources: KidLit Industry News from the Class of 2k8. This week, the class recommends "favorite Internet sites for everything from writing tips to industry news." Thanks to Brooke Taylor for recommending Cynsations! Read an interview with Marissa Doyle and Jody Feldman about the Class of 2k8.

Titles: Another Writer Mistake? by Agent Kristin at Pub Rants. Peek: "Avoid the pithy title with the long, rambling subtitle. I cannot tell you how often I see this." Note: Title length is a valid consideration. After having to type Rain Is Not My Indian Name (and having it usually misread/written as Rain Is Not My Middle Name and referred to simply as "Rain") countless times, I've resolved to go with shorter titles: Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). But if you have a long title, please don't panic! It certainly didn't hurt M. T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party (Candlewick, 2006) or Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book One)(Hyperion, 2005).

Author Interview - Daphne Grab from Melissa at Estella's Revenge. Peek: "I grew up in a small town that suddenly had an influx of NYC tourists when I was a teen. It was such a funny thing to see these people all spiffed up in city clothes that would just get muddy if they took a walk in the woods. But now I see myself being 'city' when I go back to my hometown, so at some point it occurred to me that it would be a fun issue to write about." Source: the Class of 2k8.

The July 7 issue of Time magazine included this tidbit: "we are in the middle of a baby boomlet; the 4.3 million babies born in 2006 were the most since 1961" (p. 36). Note: gear up, picture book writers!

Unhappily Ever After: Remember when children's books frolicked through tales of ponies and princes? The latest kid-lit craze is stories about living through the apocalypse—now by Karen Springen from Newsweek. Peek: "Kids' post-apocalyptic books aren't all doom and gloom. They typically feature smart, courageous children who figure out answers to problems with scant adult help, and they tend to end on a positive, if not happy, note." Source: Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Local teens film and post book trailers on the Internet by Linda Quinlan, staff writer of the Irondequoit Post in Rochester, New York. Peek: "The teens discuss what scene or scenes they want to recreate from the books, then head to a location--usually close to the library on Cooper Road — to film. For 'Missing Abby [by Lee Weatherly(David Fickling/Random House, 2004)],' they illustrated Abby's disappearance, which was detailed in a police report in the book. Using their editing skills, the teens made the actress vanish from a bus stop on Cooper Road." Source: Alex Flinn, whose novel Beastly (HarperCollins, 2007) also is featured.

Bonus Scenes from Jay Asher at Disco Mermaids. Peek: "Once I recorded...I mean, wrote...Hannah's words, and conveyed Clay's reactions [in Thirteen Reasons Why (Razorbill, 2007)], my contribution to the story was finished. Whatever happens outside of those 288 printed pages (or 5 compact discs) is entirely up to each reader. But I won't disagree with the following two-part student project. In fact, I absolutely love their well as how they're presented." Read a Cynsations interview with Jay.

The Candy Heart Contest: debut YA author David Macinnis Gill at I Am Chikin, Hear Me Roar is hosting a contest to win an advanced reader copy of Soul Enchilada (Greenwillow, 2009)! Deadline: July 31!

Take a peek at Man in the Moon by Dotti Enderle (Delacorte, 2008), "a novel about the magic that lives in all of us." Read a Cynsations interview with Dotti.

How I create digital book trailers by Naomi Bates at YA Books and More: Reviews and digital media of current young adult books and more. Peek: "Okay, let's strap into our seats and begin this amazing ride!"

Drawing from eco-riches: Australia's environment in children's books by Chris Cheng from papertigers. Peek: "Australia is an island continent: the largest island and the smallest continent. ...let me just say for now that our landscape includes coastal sand dunes; pristine rain forest; one of the most glorious, teeming-with-wildlife national parks in the world; and sometimes snow-covered alpine regions and deserts."

Jane Brocket's top 10 food scenes in children's literature from The Guardian. Peek: "Children's literature contains a feast, a banquet, a menu gastronomique of treats and delicious foodstuff; this is my top 10 evocative, mouth-watering and memorable food moments from the past."

Attention Austinites: "Create Your Own Future with Goals and Time Management" with P. J. Hoover from Austin SCBWI will be on July 19 at Barnes and Noble Westlake. P.J. is the debut author of The Emerald Tablet (Blooming Tree, Oct. 2008). The Emerald Tablet is the first book in her middle grade science-fiction trilogy, The Forgotten Worlds Books. Note: see you there!

An Open Letter to the Youth of America (and also probably elsewhere) from YA author John Green at John Green's Weblog. John wants to know: "
Why do you want to be famous? Can you explain it to me?" Read a Cynsations interview with John.

Working with an Agent (I Think) from Bookends, LCC - A Literary Agency. Peek: "...did this agent offer representation somewhere along the way and the author forgot?"

How To Critique A Beginning Writer's Weak Manuscript by Rick Walton at Big Universe. Peek: "I could be brutally honest, but I'm not Simon Cowell. Besides, I don't believe in brutal honesty. For several reasons..." See also Rick on Celebrity Books.

Warning: Almost Sold Out! Austin SCBWI's "A Day with an Editor" featuring Jill Santopolo, author and senior editor at Laura Geringer/HarperCollins, and author Cynthia Leitich Smith will be Sept. 13. Jill is interested in literary novels, quirky middle grades, and picture books. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and is the author of Alec Flint, Super Sleuth: The Nina, The Pinta and the Vanishing Treasure (Scholastic/Orchard, 2008). Note: as of this past Wednesday (the 16th), there were only two critique and four non-critique spots left! This event will sell out before the early-bird deadline! If you're interested, the time to commit is now!

Creating Suspense by Bruce Black at wordswimmer. Peek: "[Robert B.] Parker introduces the mystery in the first chapter, showing readers how a nameless boy comes to his untimely death. But Parker doesn't show the murder itself. Instead, he lets the reader eavesdrop on the scene."

Ask Daphne! from k.t. literary. "Shoe-obsessed superagent Daphne Unfeasible blogs about books and authors, answers your questions, and talks about publishing industry gossip." Peek: "a vast percentage of the books that are self-published never do end up proving anyone wrong. They sell a few copies to friends or family members, and take up space on your bookshelves with amateur-looking covers and design that will never truly hold a candle to a book published by a mainstream publisher."

An Interview with a Real Live Publicist: Random House's Kathy Dunn from Mary Hershey at Shrinking Violet Promotions. Note: a discussion of to-dos, dos, and don't for authors. Peek: "Try not to schedule any appearances, etc, before your book's official on-sale date. It is sometimes hard to early release a book to a specific location, as it gives them an unfair advantage over the other places where books are sold."

Marketing Task Recap from Robin LaFevers at Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "We thought that it might be helpful to post a checklist of all the marketing tasks we've referred to over the last few months in one place, so you wouldn't have to hunt and peck to produce a To Do List of your own." Note: authors, especially first-timers, may want to bookmark this link!

On the Red Carpet at ALA with Note: the most buzzed youth lit event on the 'net. Bravo to all! Here's my fave, an interview with Tracie Vaughn Zimmer (author interview):

Rowling joins revolt over age banding for children's books by Jonathan Owen from the Independent. Peek: "J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, two of the biggest names in children's literature, are leading a revolt by thousands of people across the country who are furious at plans by publishers to categorise books by the age at which they should be read." See also Pullman's site, Peek: "...everything about a book should seek to welcome readers in and not keep them out." Source: Lori Calabrese Writes!

On a related note, Majority of Children's Authors Against Age Guidance by Lindesay Irvine from The Guardian (UK). Peek: "Representatives for both sides of the impassioned debate have been careful to remain diplomatic, but the signs of a tough impasse remain."

Two Plot Tips for the Middle by Martha Alderson at Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers. Peek: "When things get messy, writers often long for the good old days at the Beginning of the relationship when things were smooth and happy, and superficial. Don't give into the urge to go back and start over again. The truth of the relationship and the characters emerge in the Middle."

Punk Rock and Graffiti Book Signing and a Giveaway by Kelly Parra from YA Fresh. Peek: "Just in from my book signing with Stephanie Kuehnert..." Note: "Leave a comment to win an autographed copy of Stephanie's I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone (MTV Books, 2008). Keep in mind 'Ramone' is for mature teen or adult readers (15 years and up)."

Ask the Anonymous Editor: a chat transcript from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "So while your worry that people are going to annoyed by your non-standard envelope is justified, it's also unnecessary. Never mind about that crap. Just write something really, really good."

The Romantic Comedies: A blog for authors and readers of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies series, maintained by author Jennifer Echols. Additional featured authors: Niki Burnham; Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon; Erin Downing; Jennifer Echols; Aimee Friedman; Caroline Goode; Nancy Krulik; Whitney Lyles; Kelly McClymer; Micol Ostow; Jamie Ponti; P. J. Ruditis; Wendy Toliver; and featured artist: Amy Saidens.

Dirty Little Secrets about the Writing Life by author Shutta Crum from Written Words. Peek: "No author will refer you to his/her agent or editor without falling in love with your manuscript. Relationships of this type are built on trust. No author would do damage to his or her agent/editor relationship without first reading and loving your manuscript." Read a Cynsations interview with Shutta. Note: Shutta addresses several topics/concerns that are much-discussed among published authors.

Preventing the destruction of Australian Publishing from YA author Justine Larbalestier. Peek: "I have friends who have not been picked up by publishing houses in the U.S. and the U.K. because their books are 'too Australian' and not sufficiently 'universal to have appeal outside Australia'." Which leads to more considerations... See also Justine's The Problem with Being a Small English-Speaking Country.

Branded from Roger Sutton at Read Roger. Peek: "I'm a little impatient with the argument that we should be worried about brand names in YA fiction." Read a Cynsations interview with Roger.

Librarians assemble book cart drill team by Amy Hadley from News8 Austin. Peek: "During rehearsal, the Bibliofiles can be heard singing in a very seductive voice, 'I want to be your librarian/I want to check out your books.'" See also:
Bibliofiles Win Silver at the Library Book Cart Drill Team World Championship from the Austin Public Library at MySpace.

Here's a fan-created trailer for Don't Die Dragonfly from The Seer series by Linda Joy Singleton (Llewellyn, 2004). Read a Cynsations interview with Linda Joy Singleton.

An Interview with Melissa Marr by Dee Gentle at ParaNormal Romance (scroll to read). Peek: "I don't consider writing to be limited to the physical act of fingers on keys, so to some degree I think I'm always writing. Stories simmer in our minds for months or years before they are ready to be served up on to the page." Read a Cynsations interview with Melissa.

I am the Very Model of a Modern SF Novelist by Jim C. Hines. Peek: "I am the very model of a modern SF novelist; I've manuscripts space opera, anime, and fantasist..." Source: AlmaNews.

Please wish the Buried Editor a belated Happy Birthday!

More Personally

Cynthia Leitich Smith's Jingle Dancer by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "My experience reading Cyn's book today was different than all the other times I've read it." Note: Thanks, Debbie, and cheers to Liz! Here's an interior illustration from the book, used with permission of illustrators Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.

Thanks also to Debbie for highlighting the book trailer to Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001).

Congratulations to Austin's own Brian Yansky on the recent sale of his latest YA manuscript to Candlewick Press! Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Giveaway Reminders

Congratulations to Tish in Kentucky, winner of Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)! Read a Cynsations interview with Louise.

Here's a reminder of ongoing opportunities!

The Cynsations grand prize giveaways for July are two signed copies of Wake by Lisa McMann (Simon Pulse, 2008). To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll for address) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST July 31! Please also type "Wake" in the subject line. Note: one autographed copy will be awarded to a YA public librarian (please specify library with entry) and one autographed copy will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader.

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007, 2008)(Listening Library, 2008)(audio sample) goes on sale in paperback in the U.S. July 22!

To celebrate, I'm giving away three signed copies of Tantalize in paperback, each with a Sanguini's T-shirt of the winner's choice! Note: Sanguini's is the fictional vampire-themed restaurant in the novel.

In addition to the popular Sanguini's logo shirts, graphic design genius Gene Brenek has created the all-new "I 'heart' Baby Squirrel" shirt; the "Cell Phones Will Be Eaten" shirt; the "Drop In for a Late Night Bite" shirt; and both a birds-theme and a dragon-theme "predator or prey" shirt. See below; click for larger views. Note: I don't make any money off the sale of the tie-in shirts.

To enter the Tantalize paperback and Sanguini's T-shirt giveaway, email me (scroll for address) with your name, snail/street mail address, and preferred T-shirt design by midnight CST July 22! Please also type "Tantalize Paperback and Sanguini's T-shirt" in the subject line.

One prize will be awarded to a YA teacher or librarian (please specify school/library with entry; university professors are eligible) and two prizes will be awarded to any Cynsations YA readers.

Additional Sanguini's T-shirts of the winners' choice will be awarded to a member of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace and to any YA bookseller.

To enter the Sanguini's T-shirt (only) giveaway, email me (scroll for address) with your name, snail/street mail address, and preferred T-shirt design by midnight CST July 22! If you are a member of TFU! please indicate that, and if you are a bookseller, please specify your bookstore. Please also type "Sanguini's T-shirt" in the subject line.

On a related note, Tantalize is now available in hardcover for order from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand! See the publisher listing. It looks like the paperback edition will be available in 2009.

To celebrate, I'm going to give away a signed hardcover copy to one Cynsational YA reader from Australia or New Zealand! To enter, email me (scroll for address) with your name, snail/street mail address, and preferred T-shirt design by midnight CST July 22! Note: if you have already entered the ongoing Tantalize Paperback, Eternal Excerpt, Sanguini's Giveaway in celebration of the U.S. paperback release, you don't have to send another email. Your existing entry will count for both giveaway programs!


Here's a new song from author Joseph Bruchac, "Dare to Hope" ("Joe plays guitar and sings lead, John Kirk plays 12 string and sings harmony"). Read a Cynsations interview with Joe; an update is coming soon! Source: American Indians in Children's Literature.

Who could resist Eric Carle's reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. (1967)? Source: weheartbooks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Books That Suck, Including Tantalize

The Compulsive Reader is dedicating July to "Books That Suck." To clarify: "No," CR says, "I am not going to spend an entire month on books to avoid. Instead, this month is going to be devoted to an ever growing genre of YA—Vampire books."

Gothic fantasy fans, be sure to check out this series of posts that begin with a recommendation of Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde and includes giveaways (including copies of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008))! The series also may be valuable to those champions seeking more books to recommend to the vampire-loving reader crowd!

On that note, don't miss...

Books That Suck Month: Day Fourteen: Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a review and author interview from The Compulsive Reader.

Here's a peek of the review: "Tantalize is an elegant, dark, and nicely creepy read."

And a peek from the interview: "I couldn't help rolling my eyes at Stoker’s leading female characters, which—true to the fictional norms of the day—were crafted as a sensual monster and 'virgin' victim, metaphorically speaking."

Author Interview: Gaby Triana on The Temptress Four

Gaby Triana on Gaby Triana: "Gaby Triana is the critically-acclaimed author of several books for teens, including Backstage Pass (HarperCollins, 2004)(IRA Teen Choice, Nominated for ALA Popular Paperback 2009), Cubanita (HarperCollins, 2005)(ALA Popular Paperback 2008, Latino Literacy Runner-up), The Temptress Four (HarperCollins, 2008), and next year's Riding the Universe.

"As a teacher, mother of three, professional cake decorator, novelist, and now Assistant RA for SCBWI Florida, Gaby is a busy woman. She is currently working on a supernatural thriller for YA, titled Wake the Hollow. Visit her at or"

What were you like as a young reader?

Like today, I had very eclectic tastes. I might have gone to the school library and checked out Huckleberry Finn, a history on vampires, and a How To Play Poker all in one shot. I never did well with books that teachers assigned to me. I much preferred to read only what I found interesting.

Why do you write for teenagers today?

I still don't know. I think it's because I started writing stories for my fourth graders, but the voice always sounded older. And sarcastic. And cynical. And miserable.

Everyone said I should write for teens or adults. But then, after sounding sarcastic, cynical, and miserable for a while, my characters eventually found beauty, fun, and truth right under their noses and sometimes even sounded like fourth graders again, so it was pretty clear that they were neither kids nor adults. Plus, I think most people secretly wish they were still teens—budding adults before they became boring.

What about young fictional heroes appeals to you as a writer?

The very fact that they can be heroes. I love how many teens are the real role models, how they have their heads on tighter than many adults, and how sometimes, they're the ones teaching us the lessons. They're willing to experiment with making mistakes, but they usually find their way back to home base faster than we do, whereas many adults stay lost out there.

I also love that my teen characters accept that they don't know everything, not because they're teens, but because nobody does, not even adults. And that's when they really start to grow and make the transition away from childhood, when they realize that the difference between adults and teens is not about power and authority, but about who's been around longer, has more life experience, and has applied their mistakes toward growing as a person.

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

I like telling people that my path to publication was a freeway with no traffic on it. We all know that getting published is part talent, part networking, and part luck. Well, all three came together for me rather easily. I had written a middle grade novel called "Freddie and the Biltmore Ghost," which got rejected for about two years before I started writing anything else.

Like many authors, I had my heart set on this one story. And I still love it, because ghost stories has always been my thing. But luckily, I've always been able to recognize when it's time to move on, and I had plenty more stories to tell.

So then I wrote Backstage Pass (HarperCollins, 2004), a story about a rock star's daughter devising a plan to gain herself the stability she's always yearned for, and a month after I finished it, I signed with my agent (Steven Chudney (agent interview)), and a month after that, I had a two-book deal with HarperCollins.

So, in retrospect, those two years trying to sell Freddie were really just a springboard, years that prepped me for the industry I was about to enter, which I knew nothing about. Okay, still know nothing about.

Looking back on your apprenticeship as a writer, is there anything you wish you'd done differently? If so, what and why?

Hmm, sometimes I wish, when it came time to write my second YA, that I'd chosen something more mainstream than Cubanita (HarperCollins, 2005), something that would've sold more widely, because I so easily could have. But instead, I went with my heart, as I usually do, and though Cubanita didn’t sell as much as Backstage Pass did, because I guess too many people felt it was about being Hispanic, which it really wasn't…it was about identity and independence.

I don't regret it for a second. I still cry at the end whenever I read it, and I'm so proud of how it came out. It was an important story for me, not only because of my Cuban-American heritage, but because I wrote it for anyone who's afraid of making the transition from a comfortable life to a frightening new situation. Same as The Temptress Four (HarperCollins, 2008). So no, no regrets.

On the flip side, what was most helpful to you in terms of developing your craft?

Without a doubt, joining a critique group. If you don't share your writing with anyone else, you're living in a vacuum. You need something to compare your work to, people who will be hard on you. If you can't get past a group of 10 people, how will you get past a group of editors, and reach your target audience?

Congratulations on the publication of The Temptress Four (HarperCollins, 2008)! Could you tell us a little about the story?

Thanks! The Temptress Four is about Fiona DeArmas and her three best friends, Killian, Yoli, and Alma, who have all just graduated from high school. They're about to set sail on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate their eight-year friendship as well as bond one last time before they separate to different colleges in the fall.

The night before their trip, they go to the senior fair and visit a fortune teller on a whim, a woman who reads their tarot cards and predicts storms and strife ahead, along with the chilling prediction that one of them won't come home.

It's not a story told in four points of view, like some people believe. It's one girl's story about figuring out what she wants to do with her life after she thought she had it all figured out, and how her friends influence that decision.

I'm really, really proud of this book for many reasons, especially because after having twins, I thought I'd never write again. But also because it's a fun story about love, friendship, courage to leave the past behind, with a little self-fulfilling prophecy and mystery thrown in as well.

What was your initial inspiration for writing these books?

Backstage Pass began when I saw a photo of U2's frontman, Bono, with his family getting off a plane somewhere. He looked thrilled to smile for the camera, and his 13-year-old daughter (at the time) looked bored out of her mind, so I just wondered what could be so boring about traveling the world, meeting famous people all the time, and being richer than the Queen. A lot, it just so happened.

Cubanita began with a title. I wrote it and thought, that's it. That's my next story. Now all I had to do was fill 256 pages of blank screen. My experience growing up in a Cuban-American household helped to do that.

The Temptress Four began with an idea. I wanted to write a story about four girls having the time of their lives with no parents around. They could get into plenty of trouble, which was perfect. Then I started thinking back to my last summer after high school, and I was flooded with bittersweet memories that made their way into the book.

What was the timeline between spark and each publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Backstage Pass was "sparked" in June 2002, finished in August 2002, bought in October 2002, and published in June 2004. While I was waiting for it to come out, I had a little life change known as "divorce," which turned my world upside down, but I threw myself into Cubanita and another unpublished story called "Haunting Armando," another ghost story, to get through it.
Cubanita was "sparked" in September 2002, finished in January 2003, and published in June 2005.

The Temptress Four began in February 2005 and was sold that summer (although I had written the first chapter while deciding whether to start that one or Cubanita). It was originally scheduled for publication in Spring 2007, but my editor left HarperCollins, and other in-house changes moved it to Spring 2008.

That was tough for me, to have three years between books, and some people think it's because of my twin pregnancy, but I was writing all throughout the pregnancy, so it wasn't that.

Nothing ever really stopped me from writing. Even when the babies were four months old, I started Motor Girl (renamed Riding the Universe, HarperCollins, 2009). It took a lot longer to finish, because I was writing in little spurts, as opposed to my former finish-a-chapter-each-time-you-sit practice, but it still got done.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing each of these books to life?

Having young children, a huge challenge has been scheduling writing time around three kids, two of them toddlers, and then having to go back and make my writing seem fluent, as though I did it all at once, not in five-minute spurts over the course of the year. I credit my husband, mom, in-laws, and daycare provider with this, as without their help, I'd still be outlining The Temptress Four.

I've done little to moderate amounts of research for each book. I research only to the point I need to create a credible background, because after that, it's all about the characters, not their settings, and people are people regardless of where they come from.

I think this is why my readers all feel they can relate to my characters, because I tap into universal themes and emotions. The book that has posed the most challenges has been the one I am writing now, because there are historical and literary aspects involved, plus it's my first book outside of South Florida (Sleepy Hollow), so I visited the area so I could have a good idea of the setting.

As for psychological challenges, writing during the divorce and transitional years to follow posed significant challenges for me, because I had to keep my writing from sounding too cynical and adult. But then I found ways of relating these feelings to how a teen might perceive them, and it worked out great.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Promote, promote, promote. Being a newbie, I guess I thought that wasn’t my job, only to write. But in today's saturated market, I realize I have to do huge amounts of self-promotion.

Sometimes, I get on my pity pot and feel it's unfair, but then it confirms what I've believed my whole life anyway—if you want something done right, do it yourself. So it's all good. Still, I wish I had more time to write.

In today's crowded market, it's essential for authors to promote their work. How have you taken on each of these challenges?

See? I'm psychic and started answering this before you even asked…

My books are so wonderful, they speak for themselves…ha…kidding. Seriously, I've had to promote on MySpace, Facebook, and blog on LiveJournal, but these were places I would have hung out anyway. I'm a huge computer geek. But I've also hired a great publicist (Rebecca Grose), something I never thought I had to do, but I'm glad I did. You need every edge you can get to be noticed in the crowded market.

I would imagine that having huge amounts of money helps too, but that's where I'm hoping my incredibly talented writing will speak for itself.

Someone asked me the other day, "Wow, so you're an author? So, how rich are you?"

I answered her with a lot of blinking.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

You're assuming I've achieved this. Yeah. See, I'm still figuring that out. I have exactly four hours in the morning before I have to either go pick someone up from school or go to my kick-boxing class (yes, I have to throw exercise into the mix, or…well, I shudder at the consequences). I've been trying to spend only the first hour of my day responding to emails, obsessively Googling, and promoting, leaving the other three hours for writing, but it's more like one hour writing, and by the time I'm really getting into a scene, I have to go.

Make no mistake…this sucks. Add in school visits, getting ready for conferences, and trying to keep my house in working order, and it's no wonder I have any writing time at all.

My life is so fragmented. I feel like one of those cupcake cakes that pull apart into 25 pieces, only the serving size gets bigger with every passing year. Oh, will I ever be whole again?

As a reader, so far what are your favorite books of 2008?

You're assuming I've had time to read. I would love to rattle off a list of books, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't read all that much this year. It's like this: spare time = time to write. Although I did read Crank (Simon & Schuster, 2004), Burned (Simon & Schuster, 2006), and Impulse (Simon & Schuster, 2008) by Ellen Hopkins, and not just because I spent huge amounts of time consuming frozen drinks by the pool with her at our last conference, but because I was intrigued by how she could make someone as poetry-challenged as myself somehow devour books entirely written in verse. I still don't know how she did that because poetry to me is usually blah, blah, blah.

I also enjoyed Beastly by Alex Flinn (HarperCollins, 2007)(author interview), Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fisher (Dutton, 2008), Prom Kings and Drama Queens by Dorian Cirrone (HarperCollins, 2008)(author interview), and Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling (Viking, 2008).

What do you do outside the world of books?

Entirely too much. I was making specialty cakes for weddings, showers, birthdays, etc., but I made the important decision to quit this year, so I could devote more time to writing. Still, it was fun making cakes that look like things and running the business (

I also help plan SCBWI conferences, take weekend trips to Disney World, and basically spend lots of time taking care of my family.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Riding the Universe (HarperCollins, 2009) will be out in the spring next year. It's about 17-year-old Chloé Rodriguez, who inherits the motorcycle she and her uncle built together when he dies, and spends the next year of her life trying to keep from failing chemistry, finding her birth mother, and figuring out which of the two guys she loves might be her soul mate.

I'm also working on a supernatural thriller called Wake the Hollow, a modern-day version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow [by Washington Irving], not a straight retelling, but a completely new plot filled with twists and characters that hint of the originals. It's different from anything I've published to date, and given my love of ghost stories, it's probably what I should have written first. But hindsight is 20/20, and I've always been a late bloomer. So, it's totally fine. And totally waiting behind this screen, so I gotta go and write.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Immortal: Love Stories with Bite Giveaway

Win a copy of Immortal: Love Stories with Bite edited by P. C. Cast (BenBella, Aug. 2008)(PDF excerpt)(exclusive to Borders) from Teen Libris!

Peek: "Enter to win one of three copies of the vampire short story anthology Immortal: Love Stories That Bite, signed by editor P.C. Cast.

"You'll also get five 'vampire bite' tattoos from Boutique du Vampyre in New Orleans, to get into the vampire spirit!"

Deadline: July 31. See guidelines and more!

Note: This vampire-themed YA anthology will include short stories by P. C. Cast, L. J. Smith, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kristin Cast, Rachel Caine (author interview), Tanith Lee, Nancy Holder, Richelle Mead, and Claudia Gray.

From the promotional copy:

When you're Immortal, true love really is forever

Rachel Caine revisits the setting of her Morganville Vampires series, where the vampires are in charge and love is a risky endeavor, even when it comes to your own family;

Tantalize author Cynthia Leitich Smith gives us a love triangle between a vampire, a ghost and a human girl, in which none of them are who or what they seem;

Claudia Gray takes us into the world of her Evernight series, in which a pre–Civil War courtesan-to-be is courted by a pale, fair-haired man whose attentions are too dangerous to spurn—in more ways than one;

Vampire Academy author Richelle Mead brings us the tale of a young vampire on the run from the rest of her kind, and the human boy who provides the getaway car—and a reason to keep running;

Wicked series writer Nancy Holder immerses us in a post-apocalyptic New York where two best friends are forced to make a choice that may kill them both;

Kristin Cast, co-author of the House of Night series, introduces us to a new kind of vampire: one with roots in Greek mythology, and the power to alter space and time to save the girl he's meant to love;

• And master fantasist Tanith Lee shows us what happens when a bright young woman with some supernatural savvy encounters a misguided (but gorgeous) young vampire...

P. C. Cast is the New York Times bestselling author of the House of Night series (Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed) with her daughter Kristin Cast. She lives in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Author Interview: Shana Burg on A Thousand Never Evers

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (Delacorte, 2008)(Listening Library, 2008). From the flap copy: "In Kuckachoo, Mississippi, in 1963, Addie Ann Pickett happily swings in her yard, jumps double Dutch and teaches her trusty cat Flapjack new tricks. But then a good deed meant to unite the citizens of Kuckachoo sets off a chain of explosive events. Soon Addie Ann's older brother is missing and her beloved uncle is accused of a crime. Now Addie Ann must decide whether to be a bystander or someone prepared to take action, no matter what the consequence." Read chapter one.

Note: Shana has a substantive new, must-read blog. Check out her latest entry, Who Admits to Race Bias?

What made you decide to write books for young readers?

I loved so many of the books when I taught sixth grade. The spring of my first year teaching, I taught a unit called Element of Fiction, about character, plot, theme, conflict, etc., and each night I assigned my students homework that led them to develop their own creative stories.

One day, in the midst of teaching this unit, I took my students to hear David Almond speak. I think he's an incredible writer, and after hearing him talk, I was truly inspired.

That afternoon I went home and began doing my own homework assignments along with my students. That was the day I started writing my first book, A Thousand Never Evers.

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

Well, about four years into writing my book, I went to an SCBWI conference. The presenter said,"The worst mistake you can make is to submit your manuscript before it's ready."

For many people, I guess that would be good advice. But when you say that to someone who's a bit of a perfectionist at heart, it's really not good. I waited another two years after that to send it out, so by the time I did, it was in pretty good shape. I got an agent quickly.

My agent, Andrea Cascardi, is a former editor. I'm so lucky I found her. She really helped me revise and polish. She sent the book out a few times, and it came back with long letters from devoted editors cheering me on with lengthy, detailed suggestions for revision. When that happened, I knew I was getting very close.

I kept revising, and then finally, finally, it seemed I got it right, because several editors were interested in buying it. I went with Michelle Poploff from Delacorte Press. Not only had I heard that Michelle's an excellent editor, but also I had insider information that she's a gem of a human being. This turned out to be completely true on both counts.

Congratulations on the release of A Thousand Never Evers (Delacorte, 2008)! Could you tell us a little more about this new title?

Why thank you very much! Well, A Thousand Never Evers is set in small town, Mississippi Delta in 1963. It tells the story of Addie Ann Pickett, a 12-year-old African American girl whose uncle is falsely accused of a crime. In response, Addie Ann launches a civil rights movement of her own. The book is for grades five-up, and themes include racism and prejudice, truth and loyalty, courage, family, and community.

Also, I'm so excited that Listening Library is publishing the unabridged audio CD. Kenya Brome, the actress, does an amazing job interpreting the text [listen].

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

A couple things. First of all, I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. My parents had moved there from New York so my father could work as a lawyer in the civil rights movement. I was still a baby when we moved to Massachusetts, but I grew up very curious about this chapter in my family's life. And I always heard stories about the injustices that had occurred.

Also, I had a job working on a Mississippi Delta community nutrition project. I was based in Boston, but I had the chance to visit the Delta a couple times, and I spoke regularly on the phone with people who lived there.

When I first visited, I was stunned to see the poverty I had experienced in developing countries existing right here in the United States. Also, I was surprised to see that in many places there are still basically two sides of town, the rich white side and the poorer African-American side.

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

It was a long haul. I was writing after school and in the summers. And I had a baby in there and found "American Idol," addictive time-sucker, so it was eight years! I sold the book after five years of working on it.

I would say a major event along the way was the revision letter I got from my editor, Michelle. It was eight pages single-spaced. This really freaked me out!

First of all, I had never heard anything about revision letters, and I thought I was the only author to ever get one. Only when I heard Louis Sachar speak at an [Austin] SCBWI meeting and I asked him about this strange and disturbing letter I had received, did I find out that he actually got such letters too. That was a huge relief!

Anyway, I happened to be in New York the month after I got the letter, so I met with Michelle and her editorial assistants to discuss it before I attempted the revision.

After that meeting, I really felt like I was on fire. I spent four months revising and then a couple more months answering hundreds of small queries. Then at last, it was ready for copyediting.

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

As far as research, it came to the point where I felt like I couldn't write a single paragraph without spinning off into days if not weeks of research.

When it came to understanding the details of gardening, I studied it for a year. I thought I might lose it. I had all these wonderful Mississippi farmers advising me on when it's okay to plant cabbage and corn, how many days each would take until harvest, how to plant the seeds or transplants. The problem was that I was getting contradictory information. That's when I finally realized that gardening is as much an art as a science.

Another big challenge was trying to capture the diction correctly for the time and place. I studied the language patterns in other works of Southern fiction, and I tried to develop my ear by constantly talking on the phone to people in Mississippi as I wrote.

How did you approach writing cross-culturally?

For the first four years of working on the book, I never thought, “Wow, I'm writing cross-culturally.” I just told the story of this little girl who had planted herself my imagination.

It wasn't until I went to a workshop at Wildacres in North Carolina that people said, "Oh, that's really ambitious." And my critique group discussed whether it was okay for me, a white writer, to write this.

But I had a story to tell. I'd taught many African American girls, lived with an African Caribbean family for a summer, worked with African Americans from Mississippi, so in the end, I was developing characters from a mix of research and my own experience.

How do you balance the creative side of being a writer with the responsibilities (promotion, negotiation, etc.) of being an author?

This is a struggle, because I really want to be doing both all the time. For me, writing requires real quiet, focus, and long stretches of time, especially at the beginning of a project.

On the other hand, promotion seems to tap into just the opposite kind of energy, the more extroverted, gregarious side. I can't seem to flip from one to the other in the same day or even week. Right now, my solution is to block out my schedule and say, "This is a writing week." And then "That is a promotion week."

You have some fantastic tie-in features on your website! Could you tell us about them?

I'm so glad you asked!

Well, there were many fascinating people I interviewed and met in the course of researching this book, so I've included interviews with them on the site.

For example, my character Delilah is African American and wants to be a model. I had to do a lot of research to find out if this was even a possibility for a girl like her in 1963, so I turned to an expert in the black modeling industry of the 1950s and 1960s for help.

My interview with Dr. Laila Haiderali appears on the site. I really hope that teachers and librarians will share these interviews and the related excerpts with young readers, so kids can get a behind-the-scenes look at how historical fiction comes to life.

Do you share your early writing with a critique group, critique partner, or only your editor/agent? Why does this approach work for you?

When I was teaching, I got a small grant to hire my former students to critique my first draft. We met four times during the summer at a pizza place. I paid for the pizza and then kept my mouth shut as they discussed what they'd read.

I know what people always say about not asking your children or students to evaluate your work. But I found this process completely enlightening. Looking back, their criticism was right on the money.

I do point out, however, these kids were my former students, and I clearly told them I wanted their honest opinions, so I don't think there was too much of the need to please. They got free pizza and a small stipend for their work, and I got a huge homework assignment from them—a revision that took years to complete. So they certainly got me back for any misery I'd put them through when they were my students!

Are you interested in visiting schools, public libraries, and other venues? What sorts of programs do you offer? How can planners get in touch with you?

I love visiting classrooms and speaking to young readers in other venues. I offer a variety of workshops on everything from how A Thousand Never Evers grew from seed to story, to the art of revision, and the role of young people in the civil rights movement. Planners can read more about my workshops on the Educator page of my website, and they can schedule visits by contacting me at [note: Shana is based in the Austin area].

What can your readers look forward to next?

Another middle grade fiction that deals with a critical social issue of our time.

Cynsational Notes

The Association of Booksellers for Children has selected A Thousand Never Evers as one of its New Voices Picks for spring 2008.

The book also has received a 2008 Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award and a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Michigan Memories: Alma Mater, Playhouse, Faierie Doors, and Scholars

Magical! That's what it was like to return to Michigan with my very cute husband and sometimes co-author Greg Leitich Smith for a few days earlier this month.

Our primary mission was to visit Linda Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski's class, "The Author's and Illustrator's Art and Craft," at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. (More on that shortly).

We decided to fly up a couple of days early to visit Ann Arbor, home of our alma mater, The University of Michigan Law School, where we first met as 1L students in 1991.

We took an uneventful Northwest flight to Detroit, during which I read most of debut author Maggie Stiefvater's upcoming Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Flux, 2008).

Despite my head-over-toes joy over being back "home" in Michigan, the story was a constant lure for my attention, and I finished it not long after arriving. Here's the blurb I sent to Andrew Karre (editor interview) at Flux: "Chock-full of the fierce and the fey, Maggie Stiefvater's Lament is musical, magical, and practically radiating romance. A blood-fresh reinvention of old traditions, perfect for engaging sharp minds and poetic hearts."

We arrived just after noon at Detroit Metro Airport, which was much spiffier than I remembered, and I found myself vaguely enchanted by the light display--complete with New Age-y, sort of spa music--along the walkway.

After a short stop at Hertz, we were crusing to Ann Arbor. In no time, our bags were checked in at the Campus Inn, which has an excellent restaurant and is within short walking distance to the student union.

From there, we walked to lunch at one of our old haunts, the Red Hawk Bar and Grill on State Street. It was just as good as we remembered, and I highly recommend the chef's salad (black forest ham, smoked turkey breast, bacon, hard-cooked egg, tomato, red onion and cheddar on romaine with honey mustard vinaigrette).

After lunch, we continued on to the law school quad. You know how usually when you return to a school, it doesn't look as impressive as you recall? That was definitely not the case here. By the way, our law school classmates include fellow YA author Niki Burnham.

The classroom doors were all locked, and the reading room (immediately below) fixtures were undergoing renovation, but we still enjoyed strolling the halls and remembering when.

That evening, we drove to author Shutta Crum's (author interview) farm, which is just outside the city. Visiting Shutta's place is like walking into the pages of a storybook--the quilts, the color, the quiet pond and brown barn...the deer, the fruit trees, the rows of grapes.

After a yummy salad and vegetarian lasagna (must ask for recipe!) with Shutta and her husband Gerry, we retired to the wood-floor garage-turned-playhouse to visit with a few of her pals from the local youth literature community.

The sparkling guests included: author Jacqui Robbins; author-illustrator Tracy Gallup (who was kind enough to give us autographed copies of her "A Crazy Little Series" (Mackinac Island Press)); author Ann Purmell (with whom I had an excellent discussion about books that reflect kids who work per her Apple Cider Making Days, illustrated by Joanne Fair (Millbrook, 2002)); Ann Arbor District Library children's librarian Ieva Bates; and Borders bookseller Ruta Drummond (the latter two, pictured last, are sisters--is that a book family or what?). We also enjoyed the great company of Tracy's husband Doug and Ann's husband Bruce!

Thanks again, Shutta and Gerry!

The next day we went shopping (note: this is not the proper name of the law school, but we bought the shirt anyway because of the shark).

Did you know that Borders started in Ann Arbor?

And we visited one of Ann Arbor's famed faerie doors, which we had learned about from Shutta the night before. If you're heading that way, here's a list of all the doors (with photos) and a nifty tour map.

Check out this related story from NPR; peek: "All across the city, 'fairy doors' are popping up. The miniature openings into imagined fairy homes are unsponsored, unauthorized works of public art that have captured the imagination of the city." Below is a shot of The Peaceable Kingdom and its faerie door on South Main. How sweet is that?

On a more personal note, we also enjoyed lunch at Cafe Felix (the Tabla Mixta--proscuitto, melon, strawberries, baked brie), visited The Natural History Museum, and stopped by The Arcadian in Nickels Arcade, which is where we bought my engagement ring in 1993.

Then we were off for Oakland University! We stayed at the nearby historic and award-winning Cobblestone Manor, a place of sumptuous breakfasts, gorgeous gardens, and grand cheer.

Later, professors Linda Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski showed us around Oakland U.'s vast and beautiful campus, including Meadowbrook Hall, and then treated us to a wonderful dinner at Kruse and Muer (shrimp and chicken penne).

The next morning, Greg gave an hour-long presentation--centered in part on the importance and process of writing humor for young readers--and then fielded a 45-minute question-and-answer session from the students, followed by a signing.

On a side note, Linda is the president of the United States Board on Books for Young People. More on that soon!

That evening, after a beer-battered fish-and-chips dinner, Jim and Linda treated us to a local treasure--Cook's Dairy Farm! The setting was as delightful as the iced cream was delicious. I ordered the classic chocolate, and Greg ordered the cookie dough. Both were wonderful, though I did end up stealing more than one bite of his.

The next day, it was my turn to speak. It's probably the broadest talk I've ever given as my audience's areas of interest spanned from early elementary through young adult. I spent time on Native youth literature with an eye toward related trade books in the classroom. But I also touched on my own upper-age level titles, including Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008), and read a very short excerpt from Eternal (Candlewick, 2009).

Jim was spectacular with the supporting AV equipment, and the students' questions were insightful. It was a bright, thoughtful class, and I particularly enjoyed visiting informally with them at the signing after my presentation.

Afterward, on our tour of the education school, I happened to ask whether the library had a Native youth literature collection and was wowed by the responding interest and enthusiasm. It meant a great deal to me and lingers in my thoughts.

I also had a great time both days at lunches--one chicken soup and a chicken-salad sandwich, the other spicy, stir-fried chicken and vegetable (Thai food). I forgot to ask if it was okay to mention our companions (some of whom also chauffeured us around) by name, so I won't, but thanks to all (and to the prospective YA writer in the group, go for it)!

Greg and I decided to stay one more night at the bed-and-breakfast, and this afforded us an opportunity to meet the next incoming speaker, Marie-Louise Gay.

What an unexpected and amazing treat it was to chat with her, study her books, and ask questions about her process! She was tremendously gracious in taking the time to visit with us.

That night, we dined at Bistro Bourdeau, and then, the next morning, it was time to return to Austin! The journey home was longer than expected--one of those three-hour flights that turns into seven, much of it spent sitting in the plane on the runway. But that gave me an opportunity to finish Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Little Brown, 2008) and The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower by Lisa Graff (HarperCollins, 2008), both of which were terrific reads!

Memo to children's-YA book creators: if Linda and Jim ever invite you to speak at Oakland University, go!

Memo to Linda and Jim: thanks!

See Greg's report!

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