Friday, December 19, 2008

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win one of four ARCs of Dead Is a State of Mind by Marlene Perez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jan. 2009)(author interview). From the promotional copy:

Welcome to Nightshade, California—a small town full of secrets. It's home to the psychic Giordano sisters, who have a way of getting mixed up in mysteries. During their investigations, they run across everything from pom-pom-shaking vampires to shape-shifting boyfriends to a clue-spewing jukebox. With their psychic powers and some sisterly support, they can crack any case!

There's a gorgeous new guy at Nightshade High: Duke Sherrad, a fortune-teller claiming to have descended from Gypsies. Even though she’s psychic herself, Daisy is skeptical of Duke’s powers. But when a teacher who was the subject of one of his predictions ends up dead, she begins to wonder if Duke is the real deal after all. Maybe if Daisy can track down the teacher's killer, she can find out the truth.

The only trouble is, all signs point to the murderer being of the furry persuasion. Is Daisy any match for a werewolf? Maybe she is . . . in more ways than she bargained for!

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click on the envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 31! OR, if you're on MySpace or Facebook, you can message me on that network by 10 p.m. CST Dec. 31! But DON'T send in your contact information on MySpace or Facebook. I'll contact you for it if you win. Please also type "Dead Is a State of Mind" in the subject line. Note: one copy will go to a teacher, librarian, or university professor of YA literature; two copies will go to any Cynsational readers, and two copies will go to members of Tantalize Fans Unite! at MySpace. Please indicate your entry status (if you qualify in more than one category, you get a separate entry for each).

In other news, the winner of Through the Wardrobe: Your Favorite Authors on C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia edited by Herbie Brennan (BenBella, 2008)(PDF excerpt) was Valerie in Indiana! Read an interview with Herbie.

More News

Santa is Nonfiction by Anna M. Lewis from INK: Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids.

See below for an archived online radio interview with P. J. Hoover on The Emerald Tablet (CBAY/Blooming Tree, 2008) from Book Bites for Kids. See also an interview with P. J. from The First Book.

Playing Against Hype: Buzz verses hype -- Stephen King promotes Andre Dubus III's The Garden of Last Days from Peek: "Good buzz goes from mouth to ear to blog to text message and back to mouth and...well, you get it." Source: April Henry.

To Cloth or Not to Cloth? (Or, The Age-Old Paperback Original Conundrum) from Editorial Ass. Note: great, illuminating post, though I wonder what differences there are in the youth lit market. I suspect our children's-YA librarian buyers, for example, are much more fiction friendly than their adult-market counterparts.

A video review of The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Holt, 2008) from Mrs. Magoo Reads.

Balancing, Juggling, Maintaining: on balancing a writing life and full-time job by Sara Ryan. Peek: "I am constantly aware that my friends who don’t have day jobs are publishing more frequently. I am constantly worried that I'm not fast enough, that people will forget me between books, that I'm not getting enough done. But. I try to remember: I care about both careers. My work as a librarian is rewarding, too. And publishing is not a race." Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Online Social Networking: Safety Tips for Parents from Austin Public Library. Peek: "Remind them not to post anything that could embarrass them later or expose them to danger. Although OSNs are public, teens sometimes think that adults can't see what they post. Tell them that they shouldn't post photos or info they wouldn't want adults to see."

Author defends book pulled from middle schools in Round Rock district: TTYL is cautionary tale for young people, she says by Bob Banta from The Austin American-Statesman. Read a Cynsations interview with Lauren Myracle on ttyl and ttfn.

Introducing...Vanessa Ziff! by Sarah Aronson at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "I went for the scary advisor (Um, we shan't name names.) Not that I had a death wish (some might have thought otherwise.) It's that somewhere inside, per usual, I needed the 'Advanced Placement' course, the one that would kick the living crap out of me and make me feel…humbled." Note: part of a series celebrating pre-published writers.

Introducing Cindy Faughnan! by Sarah Aronson at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Find a writing buddy or two or three to check in with. It helps keep you honest, and if you’re lucky the buddy can give you great feedback. Plus it gives you someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through or what it means to wait six months for a response or that you’re excited about a 'nice' rejection." Note: the last of a series celebrating pre-published writers.

Check out the Adios to All the Drama by Diana Rodriguez Wallach (Kensington, 2008) Book Trailer. And hurry! Today you can enter to win an ARC of the book by leaving a comment (via blogger or Diana's MySpace blog). Plus, you can enter the Adios to All the Drama Text Msg Contest for a chance to win a complete Mariana Box Set. Reminder: deadline for both is 5 p.m. EST today!

Attention: YA Horror, Paranormal (and Otherwise Creepy) Authors and Publishers: promote your books by sending giveaways to Phoenix Comicon. The event will be Jan. 25 to Jan. 27 at the Mesa Civic Center, with a preview night featuring Zombie Walk and Zombie Beauty Pageant on Jan. 24. Last year Phoenix Comicon boasted more than 5000 attendees, including many in the YA and middle readers demographic. Email, and check out to find out more about the guest list, events, how to coordinate giveaways, and more.

Enter to win one of many super cute writer items (T-shirt, mug, button, etc.) from the Pickled Pixel Toe. Deadline: midnight tonight (Arizona time). See more information.

Author Michael Grant on Gone (HarperCollins, 2008).

Teen Writing Contest: Gotham Writers' Workshop "has teamed with Sonya Sones and Simon & Schuster publishing for a truly original writing competition - The What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know Writing Contest." Peek: "Sonya Sones will read the entries, and the author of her favorite entry will win a free six-week online writing class from Gotham Writers' Workshop and Teen Ink! Sonya will even post the winning entry on her website! Ten runners-up will receive a year's subscription to Teen Ink. The winner and the ten runners-up will also receive a personalized copy of What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know signed by the author." See details and official rules.

On Voice by dawtheminstrel at Kidlit Central News. Peek: "Voice is a factor of point of view. It's created by what the POV character notices, the words in which he or she conveys it, and how he or she reacts." Note: "Kidlit Central News brings you the hottest children’s publishing news, reviews, entertainment and more—by and about those involved with children’s literature in and around the Central U.S. Featured states include: Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin."

Mandy Hubbard - YA Author: new official site. Mandy is the author of Prada & Prejudice (Razorbill, June 2009). Peek: "Mandy Hubbard grew up on a dairy farm outside Seattle, where she refused to wear high heels until homecoming—and hated them so much she didn't wear another pair for five years. A cowgirl at heart, she enjoys riding horses and quads and singing horribly to the latest country tune. She's currently living happily ever after with her husband (who, sadly, is not a Duke) and her daughter (who is most definitely a princess). Prada and Prejudice is her first novel."

Author/Illustrator Promotion Tip: be sure to include your publisher's name and book ISBNs on your websites!

From Publishers Lunch: "Jo Whittemore's Ink Slingers, a peek at the behind-the-scenes world of the eighth-grade newspaper, to Alyson Heller at Aladdin, for publication in Summer 2010, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency." Congratulations, Jo, Alyson, and Jennifer! Wonderful news! Read a Cynsations interviews with Jo and Jennifer.

Change Has Come, a picture book by Kadir Nelson: an interview with the illustrator by Don Tate from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "It was created very spontaneously with black and white sketches and drawings that celebrate our great American achievement. It is punctuated with quotes from Obama’s speeches from the last four years." See more of Don's thoughts on the interview.

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas Aboard the 'Black Sark'" a celebration of A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Phil Yates from Mark G. Mitchell at How to Be a Children's Book Illustrator. Peek: "His artwork was modern, moody, had an edgy quality to it that was appealing. Similar to Lane Smith, I think. Lots of clutter, but I mean that in a postive way. Detail upon detail. He could also handle crowds of pirates in one picture, which, when you look at the illustrations, you can see this was necessary." Read Cynsations interviews with Phil and Mark.

Fran Cannon Slayton: official site of the debut author of When the Whistle Blows (Philomel, June 2009). Peek: "Fran became a stay-at-home mom ('the best job ever'), author, and part-time singer/trumpet player in a rock and roll cover band."

Fade by Lisa McMann (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2009) ARC Giveaway sponsored by Elizabeth Scott. See details. Deadline: today!

Process and Product - 3 by Liz Garton Scanlon at Liz In Ink. Peek: "Honestly, if my process grew stagnant I would never sell a thing and, plus, I'd pull all my hair out. Which would hurt, since it's already so curly and tangly anyway." Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.

Official Rules for the Touch Series Book Launch Contest from Laurie Faria Stolarz. Peek: "In celebration of the release of Deadly Little Secret (Hyperion, Dec. 23, 2008), I'm launching a very exciting contest." Note: "The winner of the contest will have a minor character in Deadly Little Lies, the second book in the Touch series, named after him or her." Runner-up prizes are also awesome. Deadline: March 1, 2009. See details.

HarperStudio and Borders: No Returns from Nathan Bransford's Blog. Peek: "HarperStudio and Borders have reached an agreement on a framework for ending returns. In exchange for a discount ranging from 58-63%, Borders will buy HarperStudio books on a nonreturnable basis."

Check out the December Carnival of Children's Literature at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Far From You Release Celebration and Contest from Lisa Schroeder. Peek: "Copy and paste this entire blog entry into your blog between now and Dec. 21, then come back to Lisa’s blog at either LiveJournal or Myspace and leave a comment with the link to your blog and you will get two enteries to win a number of prizes." See details. Learn more about Lisa's upcoming novel, Far From You (Simon Pulse, Dec. 2008). Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Chris Barton: official author website (peek below). Chris is the debut author of The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, illustrated by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge, July 2009). You can also find him online at Bartography.

Fear and Publishing by Carrie Jones from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "We want to make the best books we possibly can make. What's happening in the publishing world shouldn't change that." Note: bonus points for "Buffy" and "Scooby" references. Read a Cynsations interview with Carrie.

Picture Books for Navidad by René Colato Laínez from La Bloga. See also Interview with Author-Illustrator Xavier Garza by René Colato Laínez from La Bloga. Peek: "I didn't even know that Santa Claus had a Mexican cousin till the day when I was with my father at the grocery store in my hometown of Rio Grande City."

Greg Leitich Smith at GregLS Blog recommends: (1) Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman (Dutton 2008). Peek: "an utterly engaging narrator (and narrative voice)" (2) The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem (Harcourt 2008). Peek: "a fascinating, well-drawn world with a compelling and likeable protagonist and intriguing conflicts." (3) The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman (Greenwillow, 2008). Peek: "imaginative and fun, the puzzles and stunts creative and thought-provoking." (4) Gone by Michael Grant (HarperTeen 2008). Peek: "Part 'Heroes,' part Lord of the Flies" (5) Squashed by Joan Bauer (Putnam 2001). Peek: "a funny, heartwarming story about family, love, friendship, finding out who you are, and giant vegetables."

readertotz: "a unique board book blog that aims to raise awareness of the infant-toddler book as a significant format of children's literature" from authors Joan Holub and Lorie Ann Grover. Note: "will feature weekly blog posts that highlight the best contributions in the infant-toddler book arena and recommend monthly community service projects appropriate for families with young children to enjoy. Also included each month: an age-appropriate play list and a recommended book for the older sibling."

The Bright and Inviting Website of L.K. Madigan: official site of the author of Flash Burnout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). Peek: "My road to publication has been filled with potholes and bumps, steep uphill trudges and deep downhill slides, laughter, tears, and always, the sound of friends and family cheering me on. I feel very lucky."

Marlane Kennedy: new official site from the author of Me and the Pumpkin Queen (2007) and the forthcoming Dogs Days of Charlotte Hayes (2009), both from HarperCollins. Peek: "As a teenager I was a good student (well, in English, at least, math was another story). I played the clarinet in marching band and was a cheerleader—though not a typical one. I was shy and kind of quiet." Aspiring writers should take her notes on writing to heart. Site design by Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys.

Contest: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott from Reviewer X. Deadline: Dec. 21. Celebrate Girl Week! Peek: "Girl Week is a week-long event here on the blog celebrating strong YA heroines and feminism."

More Personally

An Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith
by Robyn at Once Upon a Romance. Peek: "I was a switchboard operator for a bank, a cashier at a gas station, a marketing intern for Hallmark Cards, a summer clerk for a 10th Circuit appellate judge, a summer clerk for a legal aid office in Hawaii, a reporting intern for the Dallas Morning News, and a tutor in English composition for college freshmen from migrant farm families." See also last month's interview with Dotti Enderle.

Recommended Native Literature for Youth Reading Circles from American Experience: "We Shall Remain" (April 2009) on PBS. Note: I'm honored that two of my books--Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) and Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying Hwa-Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000)--appear on this list of recommended reads. Source: American Indians in Children's Literature. Reminder: Rain Is Not My Indian Name is now available for unabridged audio download from Listening Library.

A Great Time to Support Local Authors by Emily at BookKids Recommends. Peek: "Austin is rife with local authors! Buying local is a great way to put money back into your community, and it works with literature, too! Below are some of my very favorite local author titles for holiday gift-giving. (Psssst - most of these are available in signed editions!)" See also: More Local Authors: Picture Books: also from Emily. Peek: "From sleep-walking penguins to pirate Santas, Austin’s authors cover it all." Emily says of Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006): "Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith are a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to believing in Santa." And she says of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008): "...a great book for Austinite teens and lovers of dark fantasy." Shop BookPeople!

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: thoughts from Professor Nana AKA Dr. Teri Lesesne. Peek: "Smith weaves lore from Draculian legend and story along with some other familiar cultural and literary references. Astute readers will delight in finding references to James Howe's Bunnicula [1979] and others ranging from Johnny Cash to Joss Whedon and C. S. Lewis..." Note: I am absurdly pleased that Teri appreciated my lit-and-pop-culture geekdom.

Thanks to Bob at Doogle Books for linking to my site!

Thanks to Kimberly Pauley for giving Cynsations an I Heart Your Blog Award! Peek: "I learn something every time I visit her blog." I've won this award before, so I'll just refer back to my previously highlighted list. Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Reminder: Submitting a children's/YA book to Cynsations? Please don't write a "pitch" letter (per the instructions on my site) as I can't respond individually to thousands of these a year. Instead, see the submissions guidelines to decide whether your book is a fit. Good luck!

Even More Personally

I'm giving books for the holidays! They include How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2008), The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie (Delacorte, 2008), Backwater by Joan Bauer (Putnam, 1999), and Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Arthur Howard (Harcourt, 2003). In addition to BookPeople, I'm also shopping at The Literacy Site!

I'm also happy to report that Greg cut my hair, so I no longer look like a dark-haired yeti! And I have reclaimed my very cute brown knit hat, which reads "Life is Good," from Threadgill's South!

Hooray for the film adaptation of The Tale of Despereaux! Learn about author Kate DiCamillo.


Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate's painting "Duke Ellington," and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. Note: it's especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.

Fifth Annual Novel Writing Retreat at Vermont College of Fine Arts will be March 27 to March 29, 2009. Featuring: author Kathi Appelt; author Elise Broach; and editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic. Includes: lectures; organized workshops; writing exercises; one-on-one critiques with one of the guest authors; one-on-one critique with guest editor (extra fee); open mike; discussions; room and board. Cost: $450. Registration begins Dec. 1. For more information, contact Sarah Aronson.

Novel Secrets: A Novel Retreat in 3 Acts: "Have you always wanted to write a young adult or middle grade novel for children, but have not carved out the time to get it done? Do you have a draft of a novel written, but are looking for ideas and strategies to revise and strengthen it? Would you like the chance to meet with an editor or an agent to pitch your novel and gain critical feedback about this novel in particular and the fiction market, in general? All of this is possible if you attend..." Features authors Elaine Marie Alphin, Darcy Pattison, editor Jill Santopolo, and agent Stephen Barbara. See more information.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Author Interview: Anita Silvey on I'll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War

Anita Silvey on Anita Silvey: "In a unique career, Anita Silvey has spent half of her time as a reviewer and editor of The Horn Book Magazine and half of her time in publishing (publisher of children's books at Houghton Mifflin). Currently, she is teaching and writing full time."

Could you briefly update us on your back-list titles, highlighting as you see fit?

Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators (Houghton, 2002); 100 Best Books for Children (Houghton 2004); 500 Great Books for Teens (Houghton 2006).

Congratulations on the release of I'll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War (Clarion, 2008)! Could you tell us about the book?

In this photo-essay for fourth through six grades, I explore the stories of the thousand women soldiers who fought on both sides in the Civil War. Disguising themselves as men, they became active participants of all the Civil War battles.

The book tells how they pulled off their disguises and what life was like for them during the Civil War and afterward.

What was your initial inspiration for exploring the topic?

I'm an arm-chair Civil War buff and picked up De Anne Blayton's and Lauren M. Cook's They Fought Like Demons (Louisiana State University Press, 2002), the most thorough academic study of women soldiers in the Civil War.

It occurred to me that if I could find a story line, this would make ideal material for young readers.

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

Ah, a long time line. I'm a pokey puppy when it comes to writing, usually only 200-300 good words a day.

It was six years from the time I first talked to my editor Dinah Stevenson to publication of the book. We went through at least four major revisions. I had to get permission for 65 photographs and drawings that I wanted to use. Fortunately, one of my strengths is persistence.

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

We know so little about each of these women, individually. So I needed to find a way to tell about their experience, using snippets from each of their lives.

Research was wonderful, but with any project of this duration there are always the dark moments. Three and a half years into the book I was just about to write Dinah and tell her I would send back the advance. And then, it occurred to me how I needed to organize each chapter.

Three weeks later I sent her the draft that she accepted.

As Avi once said about writing, you keep working and working, and it isn't right. And then when it is, they take it away from you!

What was your greatest research coup?

I wanted to write about what these woman soldiers actually saw in battle.

After I had done enough research, I traveled to Antietam area for a week and traced where all of them had stood and fought during the battle.

Some of their personal comments stood in contrast to official records, but eventually I pulled everything together and all the pieces fit. I felt like Superwoman!

Nothing beats research, one of the great reasons to write nonfiction.

What advice do you have for writers with an interest in children's nonfiction?

Make sure you choose a topic that can hold your attention from two-to-five years.

In my experience, all nonfiction books tend to take a half year to three years longer than I think they will.

What else do you do in the world of children's literature?

I teach courses in Book Publishing at Simmons College, Author Studies at St. Michael's College during the summer, and lecture throughout the country.

How has teaching informed your own writing?

All of my writing, to some degree, is based on teaching – conveying information about a subject. As I do in the classroom, I work for clear organization and direction. I also try to "light fires" in the minds of my students and readers.

So far, as an reader, what are your favorite children's-YA books of 2008?

I love Kathi Appelt's The Underneath (Atheneum, 2008)(author interview), Laura Vaccaro Seeger's One Boy (Roaring Brook, 2008), M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation Volume II: The Kingdom of the Waves (Candlewick, 2008), Lane Smith's Madam President (Hyperion, 2008), Kadir Nelson's We Are the Ship, Marion Bataille's ABC3D, Tanya Lee Stone's Sandy's Circus (Viking, 2008). The list goes on and on.

What, if anything, do you wish you could change about publishing (as a business) and why?

I think children's book publishing works best when you have a lot of mid- or small-sized houses, thereby giving writers a choice of houses who hold different visions of children's books.

The fact that 85% of the titles now come from the big five houses (Harper, Scholastic, Random, Putnam, and Simon) means fewer possibilities for really talented people.

England, by the way, went through a similar phase about fifteen years ago, and then as the large houses failed, dozens of small ones mushroomed up.

We have been going through some of this change here; but we simply need more options, in terms of publishers.

You've had such a distinguished career in youth literature! Could you share with us a favorite memory?

I have a lifetime of memories, all of them precious. Certainly many of the favorites come with time shared with some of the great authors and illustrators no longer with us--Robert McCloskey, P. L. Travers, H. A. and Margret Rey, Rumer Godden, Ezra Jack Keats, Elizabeth George Speare, Scott O'Dell, and James Marshall. Again, the list could go on and on.

I love the people who write and illustrate children’s books; they do the most incredible thing in the world as they try to craft something that matters for children.

What do you do outside the world of reading, writing, and publishing?

I have two large Bernese Mountain Dogs, and we take long walks every day. As I age, I find the simple pleasures of life -- lunch or coffee with a friend, playing with my great niece, walking my dogs – provide me with the greatest joys.

Wow, you're busy! How do you balance it all?

I tend to have periods of great productivity, followed by times of sloth. In the latter, I remind myself that creativity happens in the empty place.

What can your readers look forward to next?

An amazing book called Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book, coming out from Roaring Brook in the fall of 2009. For it, I have interviewed leaders in a variety of professions – Andrew Wyeth, Pete Seeger, Kirk Douglas, Steve Forbes, Donna E. Shalala – about a children's book that had a profound impact on them. It has been incredible pulling these testimonies together.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

10th Anniversary Feature: Monica Roe

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of, I asked some first-time authors the following question:

As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you've learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here's the latest reply, this one from author Monica Roe:

As I continue to grow as a writer, I have found it has become both the most rewarding--and also the most challenging and intimidating--area of my life.

This realization has been something of a surprise to me, as there are other aspects of what I do that I would have expected to hold that distinction.

Besides being a newly published author, I am a physical therapist by profession. I work primarily out of Nome, Alaska, but my responsibilities also include providing services to fifteen Native bush villages across the Seward Peninsula (as well as two islands off the eastern coast of Russia).

My job takes me on weekly flights in tiny bush planes through all types of arctic Alaskan weather. I sleep in village clinics that sometimes have no running water, clamor through snowdrifts in sub-zero temperatures to treat patients in their homes, and occasionally encounter foods ranging from raw whale blubber to dried seal meat.

In comparing the two sides of my professional life, however, I can honestly say that I find writing to be the more challenging endeavor. Perhaps it's the unique mix of complete freedom coupled with absolute accountability. Nobody can force me to sit down and write—it's a conscious choice that I have to make every single time I want it to happen.

Whenever I sit down in front of a blank computer screen, I feel that same strange mix of excitement and fear. Will today be the day I write something I’m truly proud of? Do I have anything worthwhile to say? Will I ever write another book worth publishing?

Unlike a structured job with specific daily expectations, writing can be far too easy to put off, especially on the days when the words and ideas just aren't flowing the way you'd like them to. Okay, you think, maybe I'll just wait a few days for inspiration to strike. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day to try again.

I've fallen into that trap before, and suddenly three months have gone by and I've effectively scared myself out of writing anything at all.

For me, it takes a huge amount of discipline coupled with a fair amount of courage to actually sit down and face that blank screen on a regular basis—more than it takes for me to get on a bush plane or swallow a piece of whale blubber.

I struggled with that before I was ever published, and I haven't found it any easier now that I have been.

That said, however, writing is still the most rewarding job in the world. You are accountable for everything you do or don't put into it, but the possibilities are truly endless.

You have the potential to say something to a significant number of people and you can effectively shape and create your own world, your own reality.

Whether or not it includes whale blubber is up to you.

Read a Cynsations interview with Monica.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Editor Interview: Andrew Karre on Carolrhoda

Andrew Karre on Andrew Karre: "I am the editorial director of Carolrhoda Books, the trade children's book imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. The title is a little fancy, but 'editor' is the operative word. Carolrhoda publishes a small, select list of fiction and nonfiction for children of all ages, picture books through YA. I'm also the main blogger at"

We last spoke in November 2006 when you were an editor at Flux. Congratulations on your new job at Carolrhoda! Could you tell us about the Carolrhoda list? It's part of the Lerner group, yes?

Yes, Carolrhoda is an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group and always has been. Lerner has been a leading independent children's publisher for fifty years, and Carolrhoda has been publishing as an imprint since 1969.

Carolrhoda books are focused on the trade (so, bookstores and public libraries and the general book-reading public), but Lerner is a major school-and-library publisher, and having expertise in and access to those audiences is very exciting.

What about it attracted you?

I loved my time at Flux, but I really wanted to do the whole range of children's books, including YA (always my first love), but also picture books and middle grade. And nonfiction, which is extremely exciting.

When I interviewed for the position, what immediately struck me was how very important the books are to people at Lerner. Awards and starred reviews are a big deal, and earning them is a goal of Carolrhoda. They set a high bar for this imprint. I was drawn to the challenge--and, honestly, to the opportunities to do things on a bigger scale.

What new directions at the house/imprint should we know about?

I don't know if these are new directions, but they are directions.

It's no secret that I love me some YA, especially serious YA with boundary-pushing writing, so I hope you'll see some of that in seasons to come.

High-concept nonfiction is a big emphasis for us.

I need middle-grade, naturally.

And, of course, picture books are always part of this list. We've done lots of successful holiday picture books over the years, and there's no reason to stop, but I am personally interested in less-traditional picture book forms, and I know my colleagues in the art department are, too. For example, we're all really excited about Chris Monroe's Monkey with a Tool Belt books.

What titles would you recommend for study to writers or illustrators interested in working with you there and why?

For authors, I like writing that nails voice and point-of-view to the wall. If you can do that, we can figure out a plot. Read M. T. Anderson, Peter Cameron's Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (FSG, 2007), stuff like that.

Of the books I've edited recently, Emily Wing Smith's The Way He Lived (Flux, 2008) makes me enormously proud to be associated with such a talented writer. Maggie Stiefvater (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception (Flux, 2008)(author interview)) is an author I would clone in a heartbeat. She is the complete package.

In picture books, I've really loved Shaun Tan's work (just read The Rabbits, written by John Marsden (Simply Read, 2003)).

I was really excited to be part of an imprint that has a great relationship with Stephen Gammell (most recently I Know an Old Teacher (Carolrhoda, 2008)).

I have a nine-month-old son, and in addition to Goodnight Moon (by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd (1947)) and Where the Wild Things Are (by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins, 1963), I've really enjoyed reading him If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks and Heather M. Solomon (Simon & Schuster, 2004). I mentioned Monkey with a Toolbelt...

What recommendations do you have for writers in the submission process? What are pitfalls to avoid?

Focus on the quality of your work. That's irritatingly simple, but it's the best advice.

Killer query letters aren't the key (especially for me, since I only take solicited submissions, per the instructions on my blog).

There're so many unrefined ideas in the marketplace right now that all that ever stands out to me is really beautiful execution. It's the craft.

Could you describe your dream writer? Illustrator?

Someone who reads like crazy and is fearless about revision and who tells me exactly how (or if) I can help them. Someone willing to talk ideas on the phone with me without end.

All this, and they should be an absolute pro about deadlines and be a shameless but disciplined self-promoter. Would it be too much to ask for training in classical French cuisine?

Seriously, I love working with writers who surprise me with their revisions and with the growth of their work.

As a reader, so far what have been your three favorite children's-YA books of 2008 and why?

So, this excludes books I've edited or the Carolrhoda or Flux have published...

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traiter to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2006). He is a master, and the book is stunning.

I've been reading picture books like a fiend, as you might expect, so I'm a bit scattered on those, but I really liked Wabi Sabi by Ed Young (Little Brown, 2008) most recently.

I recently read David Almond's The Savage, and that was a fascinating and beautiful book. I don't know if I liked it as much as Clay, but it's a wonderful book and I love the hybrid approach.

If I can have four, I'd like to throw in Madapple by Christine Meldrum (Knopf, 2008).

If you could go back in time and talk to your beginning editor self, what would you tell him?

Learn to say "no," firmly and decisively, but also trust your instincts about an author, even if conventional analysis tells you otherwise. I'd also remind him that you publish books but you should acquire authors, and so the author-editor relationship should never be neglected.

Monday, December 15, 2008

10th Anniversary Feature: Jody Feldman

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of, I asked some first-time authors the following question:

As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you've learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here's the latest reply, this one from author Jody Feldman:

When the movie, "Field of Dreams," came out in 1989 (coincidentally, the year I started writing The Gollywhopper Games (Greenwillow, 2008)), you couldn't get very far in any given week without hearing the refrain, "If you build it, they will come."

Nineteen years later, When The Gollywhopper Games was released, those words wouldn't leave my mind. I built it. Will anyone come? Anyone besides my family and friends and writing communities? Why would anyone notice a new author's new book?

Somehow, the efforts of my publisher, the Class of 2k8 and my own attempts of promotion--plus major portions of luck and serendipity--have graced me with my share of strangers coming to my characters and my story. I built it. Readers have come.

Yet, I find it disturbing that other authors, new and experienced, who have done just as much or even more than I have to get their books noticed haven't met with the same results. And I'm talking about some brilliant books here.

If you build it, will they come? Hard to say. I've learned the business part of this industry is a giant question mark. No matter how hard we promote or how fervently we beg our Amazon rankings to climb, there's so much we can't control in publishing.

The only thing we can control is how much we work on character, plot, setting, dialogue, and theme to make the next book even better. And we can hope that if we continue to build ourselves as authors, our readers, most often, will come.

Read a Cynsations interview with Jody.

10th Anniversary Feature: Barrie Summy

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of, I asked some
first-time authors the following question:

As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you've learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here's the latest reply, this one from author Barrie Summy:

I learned a very, very important lesson this past year as a debut author.

I have a problem.

It's called time management.

There it is, folks. I've admitted it. It's on your screen. And zipping around cyberspace. Miss Muklowska, my first grade teacher, might even see it.

If only there were more than twenty-four hours in a day and more than seven days a week. And more weeks in a month. And more…

Where do the seconds and minutes and hours trickle away to?

Cyberspace. I spend way, way too much time online. I love the blogsphere and research and email and marketing and classes and just meandering from link to link.

Revising. I love to revise. Over and over and over. I'm never done. I could fiddle and tweak and change this word for that forever. The thesaurus is my BFF.

Outlining. I'm a huge outliner. I keep a recipe box per book. The box has dividers for the major plot points. Whenever I have an idea for a scene or a description or a little detail, I jot it on a note card (love those colored and lined note cards!) and plop it in the box according to where it would probably fit in plot-wise. Then I painstakingly type up the contents of the box.

The Rest of My Life. Because somewhere in the midst of all this is a family—a husband and four kids and a veiled chameleon and Dorothy the Dog. Not to mention scads of sports activities and music lessons, and, oh yeah, homework, and friends, and cooking and laundry and…

Yikes! I have to write another book!

Enter the Class of 2k8.

We're an online group of 27 debut middle-grade and young-adult writers from a variety of publishing houses who banded together for marketing purposes. We've ended up becoming great friends. Who share the ups and downs of life as a debut author.

And guess what? I'm the baby of the class (in terms of pub date, that is!). Which means I get to watch my classmates navigate the publishing experience before me.

And see just how much there is to juggle!

And learn how they're managing their time.

And get a sense of what's coming at me from down the pike.

And it all helps. Tremendously.

Not saying I don't still have time management problem.

But now it has a name.
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