Friday, August 28, 2009

Cynsational News & Last Call for Eternal Audiobook, Elizabeth Scott, Ed Young & J. Patrick Lewis Book Giveaways

National Day on Writing Testimonials: "celebrities speak to the importance of writing, the National Day on Writing, and the National Gallery of Writing." Listen to authors Glenda Burgess, Jacqueline Jules, Sarah McCoy, Katherine Paterson, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Natasha Wing share our thoughts. Then Take Part in the National Day on Writing!

More News

Special Call for Illustrators of Color from Lee & Low at The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "Lee & Low Books, an award-winning publisher of quality multicultural books for children, is looking for skilled artists of color who can bring picture book stories to life with originality and authenticity."

Beyond the Book: Geektastic, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009) from Alvina Ling at bloomabilities. Peek: "Sure, some of the stories speak mainly to hard-core geeks, and non-geeks might not get all the references. But that's kind of the point. This is a book for geeks, by geeks; but it's also a book for past geeks and future geeks." Notes: (1) don't miss Alvina's click-t0-enlarge geek resume; (2) stories include "The Wrath of Dawn" by Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith.

An Unusual Take on Conflict from Jennifer R. Hubbard at writerjenn. Peek: "If the characters avoid direct confrontation for a while, it builds tension." Source: Nathan Bransford.

New York v. Introverts by Mary Hershey at Shrinking Violet Promotions. Peek: "Elizabeth [Law] heartily encouraged us to get over it, and recognize that our editors (and agents!) are our business partners. Business partners? Wow. That really hit me. Not demigods?"

Moving on...Sometimes It's a Necessity by Emily Marshall at Author2Author. Peek: "If you are serious about your writing, you owe it to your book to have it be the best it can possibly be when trying to query agents, and if during the querying process you learn it’s not the best it can be, I think you need to stop, make it better, and then get back to querying. But how can you determine when to stop?"

Sylvan Dell Publishing's Blog: "a small publishing company in South Carolina doing amazing things for children's literacy. We have 45 picture books, amazing eBooks, and a focused mission of bringing science and math to children through literature."

An Interview with Illustrator Doug Cushman from Michelle Markel at The Cat and The Fiddle. Peek: "Pacing a picture book is the most important part of the process in my opinion. You want to make each page flow naturally into the next one but be true to the pace of the text as well." Note: Michelle also is giving away five copies of Tyrannosaurus Math (Tricycle/Random House, 2009).

Agent Follow-Ups from Moonrat at Editorial Ass. Peek: "...ask your prospective agent what their submission plan is like before you commit to working with them."

Anatomy of a Writer's Group by Allison Whittenberg at Crowe's Nest. Peek: "If you are thinking of creating your own writers group, here are some guidelines..."

A Writer At Home: Anita Silvey from Kimberly Willis Holt at A Pen and A Nest. Peek: "After thirty years of going into an office, I often have to pinch myself as I write at home. It is sometimes hard to believe that I am really working – when I go from my bed to my desk in a comfortable but tattered bathrobe." Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberly.

Killer Unicorns? BookKids Q&A with Diana Peterfreund Reveals All! from The BookKids Blog! by the crazy folks at BookPeople (of Austin, Texas). Peek: "I was an abstinent teen and I was sick and tired of being told that only religious people are abstinent or that I was necessarily 'saving myself' for my wedding night. The girls in my book chose not to become sexually active when unicorns weren't even around, and their reasons reflect the variety of experiences and beliefs that might shape those choices."

How Do We Know The Truth - For Sure? by Susan Kuklin from I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: "Writing both narratives and giving them equal weight turned out to have an unexpected benefit. The readers now had opposing material for debates. And they did. In the classroom and privately. With passion and conviction."

"How to Thrive in a Challenging Economic Climate: Seven Savvy Strategies" by Sheila Wipperman from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "...here are a few strategies you can put into practice to stay on track and recession-proof your writing career."

An Open Letter to Agents, with a Modest Proposal Regarding Submissions by Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Editor Cheryl Klein. Peek: "There are lots of pieces involved in putting an offer together, one that will be both financially and artistically sustainable and successful for both the book and the house—And none of those pieces are improved by speed." See also In response to "A Modest Proposal Regarding Submissions" from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, then a follow up from Cheryl and a follow up from D&GLM. Source: Alice's CWIM Blog. On a related note, check out Publishing Time by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent.

Marketing Interview (& Contest) with Laura Purdie Salas from Becky Levine: Moving Forward on the Writing Path. Note: Laura talks about what did and didn't work in marketing her first book. Peek: "The fantastic blog Shrinking Violet Promotions was a great starting point for me. Also, I had been saving emails and articles and all sorts of stuff for years in a folder marked 'Promotion'. It was a 'someday' folder...and someday came, and I really did use a lot of that information!"

Multicultural Dialogue: Please Pass the Patate by Carmela Martino from Teaching Authors: Six Children's Authors Who Also Teach Writing. Peek: "Members of my own immigrant family speak with heavy accents and often intersperse Italian words, or Anglicized Italian, with English. If I tried to reproduce such speech in my novel, readers would have a difficult time deciphering it." Read a Cynsations interview with Carmela.

Getting Started on Twitter: A Quick Guide for Kid/YA Writers from Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "I recommend using a real name if possible. Or a pen name if you use one. It's your brand, right?" Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

A Good Experience by Marc Aronson at Nonfiction Matters from School Library Journal. Peek: "All we need to do is reveal to our readers, to our book talk groups, to our classrooms, that every word in nonfiction is chosen, and chosen with as much care, craft, and deliberation as the narrative in a novel, or the beats in a poem. Once we do that, the world opens up." Read a Cynsations interview with Marc.

Meet Jerry Pinkney from BookPage. Peek: "I'm dyslexic, so I liked those classes where teachers understood my challenges, and allowed me the opportunity to exercise my own way of learning. I graduated with honors."

Pulverizing Writer's Block by Jo Whittemore at Jo's Journal. Peek: "Treatments for writer's block: Repeat after me. 'I can always revise." Especially if you're on your first draft, this should be your mantra. Right now, you're just nailing down the story, characters, dialogue. Revisions are going to hone and polish your work into a thing of beauty, so just concentrate on writing a rough version of the story first.'" Read a Cynsations interview with Jo.

Writing Through Interruptions by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: "So few of us live on a deserted island. Most writers--probably 90% or more–have to deal with distractions and interruptions."

In the Author's Tent: R.A. Nelson, Part Two: an author interview from Melodye Shore at Front Pages. Peek: "I don't worry about identifying with kids. I don't think of 'age' when I write, I just write. The kind of identification I care about is much deeper than bands or cell phones or Blackberries. It's beyond age or even gender. It's timeless and wrapped around the core of who we are." Don't miss Part One. Read a Cynsations interview with R.A. Nelson.

Terry Pratchett: State of the Nation by Lauren Barack from School Library Journal. Peek: "Children as a whole are more interesting as main characters because, by definition, there is lot that they don't know, and at the beginning of the book there is a lot that the reader does not know and so they can learn together." Source: Gail Gauthier at Original Content.

Digital Reviewing by Roger Sutton at Read Roger. Peek: "...picture books demand to be held, and the page-turn and your fingers are part of the story. Less ethereally, picture-book reviewers will often hold them at a distance to see how an image might carry across a story hour, or they will want to try one out with an individual child or group." Read a Cynsations interview with Roger.

The Annual KidLitosphere Conference: "The Kidlitosphere Conference is an annual gathering of the Society of Bloggers in Children's and Young Adult Literature. The 2009 conference will take place in Washington, DC, on Oct. 17. While sessions are not scheduled for Friday, a Library of Congress visit is currently in the planning stages. An informal outing in DC will be scheduled for Sunday as well." Source: The Brown Bookshelf.

An Interview with Novelist Laurie Halse Anderson from Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Peek: "As an artist, the last thing you want to do is repeat yourself. You want to keep pushing that boundary or else, again, you become a boring grown-up—why do that."

A Book Reviewer's Apologies by John Green at John Green's Blog. Peek: "The reason I felt like it didn't sound like actual teenagers IMing is because it didn't sound like me IMing, and I was not yet accustomed to the idea that my way of experiencing the Internet might be dated. I fancied myself such an expert in online communication that I felt I could be very high and mighty about emoticons. Okay. That was embarrassing, but also kinda cathartic." Note: John recommends How to be a reader: book evaluation vs. self-evaluation by Shannon Hale at squeetus blog. Read a Cynsations interview with John.

Cynsational Notes

Are you sponsoring a children's/YA book giveaway/contest? Did you post an in-depth interview with an author, illustrator, editor, agent, or other book professional? Did you just compile, say, an annotated bibliography of books set in Mexico? Or on the civil rights movement? Did you pour a week into writing an article about craft, publishing, or the literature community that uplifts/inspires/informs? Did you launch your own new author/illustrator site or blog? Or have it professionally redesigned?

I'm looking for substantive links to share. Please let me know, so I can pass your good news onto my readers and hopefully send some visitors your way. Send the title of the link, the URL, and/or a brief description or quoted excerpt (in the fashion of the links shown above).

Note: round-ups usually appear on Fridays, so a contest that's, say, announced Monday and closed Wednesday of the same week is not a great fit for me.

More Personally

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Jen Wardrip at Authors Unleashed (the blog of TeensReadToo). Peek:

"You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your teen readers. What would it be?

"Don't lose yourself in another person. Everyone loves love, but don't forget to love and honor yourself, too. It's okay to choose to stand strong on your own."

We're Going to Need Bigger Bookshelves... by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "We just discovered that the post office has been holding incoming packages addressed to our PO Box without letting us know they were being held (No, we don't know why). Yesterday, we went to pick up our mail, and discovered three months worth of review copies. (That's six postal bins worth)." Note: we're on it!

Reminder: I'm still on deadline on Blessed (Candlewick, 2010) until after Labor Day weekend. Please hold off on sending any optional e-correspondence. Note: if your interview answers are due or you're sending a news release/link of interest to Cynsations readers, this does not apply to you! Thanks so much!

Last Call for August Giveaways

Enter to win one of two copies of the new Eternal audiobook (Listening Library, 2009)! One copy will be reserved for a teacher, librarian and/or university professor of children's-YA literature, and one will go to any Cynsations reader!

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Eternal audio" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the title in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31! Reminder: teachers, librarians, and professors should ID themselves in their entries!


Enter to win a paperback of Stealing Heaven (Harper, 2008) and a hardcover of Love You Hate You Miss You (Harper, 2009), both by Elizabeth Scott. To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Elizabeth Scott" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31. Read a related Cynsations interview with Elizabeth.

Enter to win both Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel, 2009) and Hook by Ed Young (Roaring Brook, 2009)! To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Ed Young" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31. Read a previous Cynsations interview with Ed.

Enter to win Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ethan Long (Little, Brown, 2009). To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "J. Patrick Lewis" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31. Read a previous Cynsations interview with J. Patrick Lewis.

Austin Events

Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Day in the Lone Star State: acclaimed authors Kathi Appelt and Sharon Darrow will lead a conference on the craft of writing for young readers on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 at Teravista (4333 Teravista Club Dr.) in Round Rock, which is located just 20 minutes north of Austin. Note: open to alumni and all other serious writers for young readers! Participants are incoming from nation wide. Spots are filling fast--only 7 more spots available!--register today! See more information. Read previous Cynsations interviews with Kathi and Sharon.

"The Main Elements of Story: Plot, Character, Setting, and Theme" with National SCBWI Speaker Chris Eboch sponsored by Austin SCBWI is scheduled for Oct. 10. Attendees will receive a $10 discount when registering for the local January 2010 conference. Seating is limited. Registration opens July 6. Note: Austin SCBWI events often sell out. From the author site: Chris has a new series, Haunted, debuting August 2009 [from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin] with two books: The Ghost on the Stairs and The Riverboat Phantom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Craft, Career & Cheer: Jo Knowles

Learn more about Jo Knowles, and visit her LJ.

What do you love most about your creative life? Why?

Growing up as a very quiet, shy kid I felt overlooked an awful lot. I never really felt like I had much of a voice. Of course, I wouldn’t have worded it that way, but I guess my overall feeling was that no one really listened to me. Heck, half the time I felt like no one noticed I was even there.

The thing about feeling invisible, though, is that it makes you an observer. I think I've always watched and listened to people and imagined their "back stories" in my head.

As a kid I used to wonder why other kids or teachers or, well, everyone really, acted the way they did. Why was Mrs. R. such a LOUD TALKER. Why was S always so grumpy?

I created some pretty fantastic reasons which I'm sure were all untrue. But that's probably when I started becoming a writer.

Now, I do have a voice. I can write down all those back stories and give them center stage. I can write a story about a kid who's always grumpy, and I can show my readers why and maybe get them to think about the kid sitting next to them who seems sad and distant. And maybe the next time they have a chance to say something to that kid, they will.

I mean, I'm not writing to teach. I'm writing to encourage thought. To entertain, but to challenge, too. Isn't that what we all do?

For the first time in my life, people are asking me questions. They want to hear me. It's a heady and overwhelming feeling. I admit sometimes I want to go back to that invisible time.

But even that quiet child-me that still lives in my heart gives me a little tug and says, No. Listen. I have something to say. This creative life lets me speak and be heard, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

Why is your agent the right agent for you?

My agent, Barry Goldblatt, believes in the better me--the me that I often don't believe exists. Usually when I give Barry a new project, I feel pretty confident that this time he’s going to love it on the first go. But so far, that has never happened.

But for me, once I get over the initial overwhelmed feeling of failure, I realize he's right. I didn’t go where I needed to go yet. And Barry’s feedback is the permission I need to go there—to explore the complexities I may have been afraid of, or tried to convince myself weren't there. Barry’s feedback makes me feel safer about taking that journey.

In your own words, could you tell us about your latest book?

Jumping Off Swings (Candlewick, 2009) is told from four points of view—two girls and two boys. It explores how one girl’s pregnancy affects each of them in different but profound ways.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I recently sold my third novel, Pearl, to Henry Holt. It’s about a girl whose grandfather dies, unleashing some big family secrets that end up changing her relationships with those she loves—and herself—in unexpected and life-altering ways.

Cynsational Notes

Making the Most of Your Writing Group by Jo Knowles from her official author site. See also her list of recommended books on writing.

Read a previous Cynsations interview with Jo.

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children's-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Voice: Kathryn Fitzmaurice on The Year the Swallows Came Early

Kathryn Fitzmaurice is the first-time author of The Year the Swallows Came Early (HarperCollins, 2009). From the promotional copy:

Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson loves cooking and plans to go to culinary school just as soon as she's old enough.

But even Groovy's thoughtfully—planned menus won't fix the things that start to go wrong the year she turns eleven—suddenly, her father is in jail, her best friend's long-absent mother reappears, and the swallows that make their annual migration to her hometown arrive surprisingly early.

As Groovy begins to expect the unexpected, she learns about the importance of forgiveness, understands the complex stories of the people around her, and realizes that even an earthquake can't get in the way of a family that needs to come together.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice's lovely debut novel is distinctively Californian in its flavor. Her rich characters and strong sense of place feel both familiar and fresh at first meeting—and worth revisiting, again and again.


Who has been your most influential writing teacher or mentor and why?

I have taken many wonderful writing classes, but my grandmother has been the greatest influence and mentor on me becoming a writer.

The summer I turned 13, my mother sent me to New York City to visit my grandmother, who was a science fiction author. This was in the 70s, when science fiction was becoming very popular.

My grandmother led a very eclectic lifestyle. I remember we never did anything until late afternoon, and then we stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. Sometimes, we went to dinner as late as 11 p.m.

Then when we returned, she'd sit down to write until very early in the morning. She told me she did this because the middle of the night was when people said and did things they normally wouldn't. She had a collection of porcelain owls, because they were creatures of the night. She studied paranormal events. She discussed things like inner motivations and secret desires.

She helped me to write my very first story that summer and stayed up all night typing it so I could have a real story like she had. At thirteen, it was one of the best times I'd ever had.

She worked very hard that summer revising a novel entitled Chrysalis of Death. And one day, we met her agent for lunch, and after listening to them discuss how my grandmother could make her characters into whomever she wanted, I decided that someday, I'd like to be a writer, too.

So after I announced my decision, my grandmother proceeded to send me books about writing techniques, books by classic authors, and literary essays for every birthday and Christmas holiday after. One of my favorite books she sent me when I was deep into a teenage poetry stage was a volume of poetry written by Emily Dickinson.

Inside the front cover, she wrote: Emily Dickinson is a revered poet. Perhaps the same can be said of K.H. someday. Love, Grandma Eleanor.

When she passed away, she left me a big box with all of her unfinished manuscripts in it [see photo below]. The box of manuscripts has been a huge inspiration to me. One of her short stories that I found inside the box is entitled "The Lake" and is about a group of zombies that take over remote area of a forest next to this lake.

So because of all of the encouragement she gave me and to honor her, I decided that when I sat down to write my own novel many years later, that I would name my main character after her and give her a grandmother very much like my own. I gave the grandmother in my story the same characteristics and even had her give a box of manuscripts to her granddaughter.

In fact, because I remember her revising Chrysalis of Death the summer I visited, I decided to include it in The Year the Swallows Came Early. So on page 148, my main character and her best friend find this manuscript and talk about it, along with a few of her others stories. I included her book, Chrysalis of Death, inside my book.

She never got to read even the first draft of my novel. But I did send it to her agent three years ago, who is still alive and working in NYC. After reading my book, my grandmother’s agent made the comment that she liked how I included my grandmother's books in my own books, and she thought my grandmother would have been very proud.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making?

Well, like many other authors, I have a website. In addition, I recently started blogging about my experiences as a first-time author. My blog is linked to my website. I also joined facebook and recently participated in a short blog tour.

One very exciting effort is through a group of 25 other debut authors called The Class of 2K9. We band together as a group to help promote each other's work, and for moral support.

Another source for debut authors is AuthorsNow! This group evolved largely through the efforts of Cynthea Liu, who provides not only a huge source of information for writers through her own website and reference book, but has two teen debut books coming out this year, The Great Call of China (Speak Puffin, 2009) and Paris Pan Takes the Dare (GP Putnam’s Sons, 2009)

In addition, I've offered school visits and one very special appearance where I was at the Mission in San Juan Capistrano, California; for the celebration of the swallows retuning from Goya, Argentina, on March 19, St. Joseph's Day.

The swallows fly 7500 miles in just 30 days to return from their winter annual migration. Their return reminds me of a promise that can never be broken.



Cynsational Notes

Read an interview with Beverly Patt on the Class of 2k9 and an interview with Cynthea on AuthorsNow!

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009 Teens' Top Ten Voting Begins

From ALA/YALSA

"Teens will vote online from Aug. 24 through Sept. 18 at www.ala.org/teenstopten for their favorite books.

"The winners of the 2009 Teens' Top Ten will be announced in a webcast featuring WWE Superstars and Divas during Teen Read Week, Oct. 18-24.

"Tell your book group, youth organizations you work with, and any other groups you know that work with teens to come to www.ala.org/teenstopten between Aug. 24 and Sept. 18 and vote.

"The more teens who participate, the more accurately the winning list will reflect the reading tastes of teens all over the country!"

Cynsational Notes

I'm honored to report that Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) has been included among the 25 nominees!

See all the nominees (PDF)! Learn more about: Kristin Cashore; Kristin & P.C. Cast; Cassandra Clare (interview); Suzanne Collins; Isamu Fukui; Neil Gaiman; John Green (interview); Joanne Harris; Ellen Hopkins; E. Lockhart (interview); Zoe Marriott; Lisa McMann; Stephenie Meyer (interview); Katy Moran; Patrick Ness; Alyson Noel; Robin Palmer; Tamora Pierce; Elizabeth Scott (interview); Cynthia Leitich Smith (interviews); Sherri L. Smith; Lynn Weingarten; Nancy Werlin (interview); Lisa Yee (interview).

Snapshot: Jennifer L. & Matthew Holm on Babymouse

Learn more about author Jennifer L. Holm and author-illustrator Matthew Holm.

Then visit Jennifer & Matthew Holm (brother-and-sister troublemakers) along with the one and only Babymouse!

Could you describe the best experience you've had working with an editor?

The best experience we've had has been working with our Random House publishing crew (we think of them as our "dream team") – "Super Editor" Shana Corey and "Visionary Art Director" Cathy Goldsmith. They are the publishing whizzes behind Babymouse (Random House).

From day one, Shana and Cathy (and everyone else at RH for that matter!) just "got" Babymouse. And now this was years ago, back in the stone ages, before everyone was talking graphic novels for kids (we're talking about 2003 here, folks). Their enthusiasm and thinking-outside-the-box helped shape the Babymouse books.

What do you love most about being an author? Why?

We get to make comics for a living! (What could be better?)

Jenni especially likes being able to wear pajamas all day and read other comics "as work."

Matt always wanted a dog, and illustrating from home has allowed him to have a big lug of a puppy he can walk all day long.

In your own words, could you tell us about your latest book?

Babymouse: Dragonslayer (Random House) will be fighting its way into stores this August 25!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Craft, Career & Cheer: Brian Yansky

Learn about Brian Yansky. Read Brian's Blog: Writer Talk: Random thoughts on the art and craft of fiction writing.

How do you psyche yourself up to keep writing?

I think one way I psyche myself up is by making writing a habit. Like most habits, it's helpful if you do it at about the same time and place every day. I like mornings, so I go to my computer every morning after a quick breakfast.

I always carry my first mug of coffee with me. I also like to sharpen one or two pencils before I start. The mug of coffee and the sharpened pencils let me know that it's time to write. All of this is a little trick to get my mind where it needs to go to begin writing.

If none of these little rituals work, sometimes I'll read the first pages of a manuscript.

Another trick is to stop your writing each day at a place where you know what will happen next. This gives you a place, as you begin writing the following day, of re-entry into the world of the manuscript. (I think I got this idea from a Francine Prose book; it was an old Hemingway trick, too.)

Usually these things get me writing.

But not always. There are days, bad days, when writing a sentence seems impossible. A paragraph? A scene? No.

Then I look out the window a lot, well, more than usual even. I pet the dogs. I let the dogs out. I let the dogs in. I remember that the dogs must eat. I feed the dogs. Sometimes I walk the dogs.

I've been "writing" maybe an hour or so by this time though the page may be as blank as when I started. Nevertheless, I wander back to my desk with a sense of purpose, which is an oxymoron, which is exactly what I feel like at that point.

Once at my desk, after more staring out the window, I remember I haven't checked my email yet. Twenty minutes later, after checking The New York Times web page and perhaps a blog or two, I force myself back to work.

Back to my scene, my scene that isn't a scene. Sometimes I do start to write at this point, I do finally get there, but if I can't, I might revise the scene before the one I'm working on.

More staring out the window. It's a nice day out there. The dogs, probably because they see me starring mournfully out my window, want to go out. The lab, as labs are fond of doing, begins to bark at what appears to be nothing and actually is nothing. But how can I be sure?

I go out to investigate. Then once I'm outside, well, the dogs need to be played with. Oddly, they go to the door after a while and leave me in the middle of the yard holding a stick.

Fine. In I go. Back to my desk. Back to my scene. My scene.

Wait, my scene. He walks into the room. He's afraid. Why didn't I see that before? Of course he's afraid. And I write. Time passes. I don't know where it goes. I write and I write and I write.

There are days like this. Days when it's really hard to get into the manuscript. But even on these days if I stay with it in my imperfect, distracted, inefficient way, I usually find that moment when the manuscript opens up for me and I can write.

Sometimes I get a lot of writing done in the last half-hour or even fifteen minutes of my writing time. I think it's important to show up every day you can, which should be most days, even the bad ones.

What do you love most about being an author? Why?

That's easy. The writing. Writing is full of wonders, and there are a few moments in every manuscript that are filled with a kind of grace.

I've read that Dickens would often be writing scenes from his novel with tears streaming down his face.

Writing is caring. You care about your characters and your story and the way you use language. Writing is love. Sometimes hate. This thing we do that actually removes us from life makes us experience life intensely. Writing is one of the ways I feel I’m alive.

Describe your upcoming book.

I will have a novel coming out next year from Candlewick titled Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences (2010). Aliens invade Earth, but the novel isn't about this often-told story.

The invasion itself takes about ten seconds because the aliens are telepaths and all our big, bad weapons are ineffective against their powers of the mind.

The story is about what happens after the invasion to those few who survive it. My main character, seventeen-year-old Jesse, like every other human who survives, is made a slave. As soon as the first waves of colonists arrive, he'll be sold and that will be his life.

At first Jesse and the friends he makes where he's held think there's no chance for escape. The aliens are just too strong. But constant contact with the aliens seems to awaken some telepathic powers in them. They begin to have hope that they can escape.

The story is about what happens to Jesse and his friends as they try to survive and redefine themselves in this new world.

Cynsational Notes

Brian's wife, Frances Hill, is the author of The Bug Cemetery, illustrated by Vera Rosenberry (Henry Holt, 2002). They make their home in Austin, Texas.

Brian's Blog offers a thoughtful discussion on the writer's life and craft. For example, the most recent post, rejection, states: "You have to be stubborn to be a writer. You have to be stubborn with the work itself and you have to be stubborn to keep going in the face of compelling reasons not to write at all, let alone try to make a career out of writing." Highly recommended.

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children's-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.
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