Friday, September 11, 2009

Cynsational News & Giveaways

The Texas Book Festival, which will take place Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in Austin, has announced its slate of featured authors for 2009!

Featured children's-YA authors include: Jessica Lee Anderson, Libba Bray, Janie Bynum, Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Keith Graves, Heather Hepler, K.A. Holt, Jacqueline Kelly, Rick Riordan, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rene Saldana, Jr., Tammi Sauer, Liz Garton Scanlon, Anita Silvey, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Samantha R. Vamos, Rosemary Wells, Kathy Whitehead, Mo Willems, and Sara Zarr. See the whole list!

Read what TBF has to say about my own featured book, Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)! Peek: "Smith's humor is in the details: an angel offers Yahoo maps as a directional aide, Dracula purchases a coffin for a reduced rate online, and Zachary gets a tattoo of a cherub on his chest while intoxicated in Austin." Read the whole recommendation.

More News

"Free! Writing Lessons Here" by Tammi Lewis Brown from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "Believe it or not there are lots of places you can hone your writing skills for absolutely no money. Don't expect to receive a one on one critique of your work for free. Do expect to stand back as writing advice floods over you. Here are some places to look..." Don't miss To MFA or Not to MFA... from Tammi. Note: part of a week-long series on writing education. See also Perspiration: Self-Study from my website.

Cheryl Savageau's Muskrat Will Be Swimming: a recommendation from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "I strongly urge teachers and librarians and parents to get books that are about modern day Native people. Those that incorporate elements of traditional culture can do a lot to help children know that Native people are still here---that we didn't vanish." Note: would you like to support Native voices? Please consider adding the Native Youth Literature Widget from JacketFlap to your blog/site sidebar.

Meet and Greet: Judy Young: an author interview from Susan Uhlig at Kidlit Central News. Peek: "...these books are not typical alphabet books. They have the ABC component but are more about the subject matter that happens to be arranged in alphabetical order. And they are multi-tiered for different ages. Each page has a letter, a poem, sidebar expository and captivating illustration." Note: "Judy is speaking at the Missouri SCBWI conference in St. Charles on Nov. 7."

Back-to-School "Jewels" Giveaway: enter to win The Amethyst Road by Louise Spiegler (Clarion, 2005) and an ARC of The Navel of the World: The Forgotten Worlds Book 2 by P.J. Hoover (CBAY, 2009) from The Spectacle. Peek: "To enter, leave a comment on this post with your favorite thing about fall. If you can tie it to a book, so much better." Winner posted Sept. 21. Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Picture Book Boot Camp with Lisa Wheeler: "This one-day workshop teaches participants how to develop a lean, muscular body of work." The first boot camp is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Holiday Inn in Lake City, Florida. The second is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Shapleigh, Maine. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Writing it Right!: Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid recommends Writing It Right!: How Successful Children's Authors Revise and Sell Their Stories by Sandy Asher (Writers Institute, 2009). Peek: "In the book, each story (full picture book or a chapter from a longer work) is analyzed in several ways. You'll see before and after versions... In another section, you will see the actual line edits that brought about the changes."

"Deus ex Machina and Foreshadowing: Advice for Writers" by Jo Whittemore from The Spectacle. Peek: "When your reader gets to the point where the main character resolves the conflict, it must be believable. To make it believable, you must have left an impression in the reader's mind that such an event was bound to happen based on the events that preceded it." Read a Cynsations interview with Jo.

Author-Illustrator Mark G. Mitchell will teach a six week class in Children's Book Illustration from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday evenings from Sept. 14 to Oct. 19 in conjunction with The Art School of The Austin Museum of Art. Peek: "This enjoyable, information-packed class will cover the basics of illustrating for children's books and magazines. Complete a finished, full color piece for your story. (Editors want to see a sample of your color work.) Learn the steps in preparing thumbnails, a dummy and a submission package for an editor and/or art director at a children's book publishing house. Also covered: using visual references, transferring sketches to a painting surface, how to submit final art (after you get that contract) and how to market yourself and your work." Read a Cynsations interview with Mark.

Q & A with David Levithan from Blog. Peek: "...after such a tragic event, we could have spiraled into chaos, both as a country and as individuals. But the opposite happened. Even though we were in shock, and even though we were in uncharted territory, we managed to maintain our better selves." Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Gingerbread Pancakes with Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee from Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "When she called, I said something along the lines of, 'Who are you?' because it seemed to me like she was way too amazing of a writer to be sending off a manuscript in this way. It was completely against the Children's Book Publishing Rules! But she knew that and she did it anyway." Note: a don't-miss interview!

Writing Beyond Illinois Borders: Former SCBWI-Illinois members Carol Brendler and Keith McGowan talk about their experiences as debut authors living abroad from The Prairie Wind: Newsletter of the SCBWI-Illinois Chapter. Peek: "Canadians have an understandable desire to promote and support Canadian authors, so I find that a visit to the bookshop or the library is full of unfamiliar but intriguing new finds."

The Student Author Book Publishing Program, presented by author/educator Debbie Gonzales, is a unique, program-specific, in-school writing workshop in which students experience all stages of the publishing process and have their work published in a hard-bound book, just like a real author. Learn more from Debbie! Read a Cynsations interview with Debbie.

Trouble Spots: The Last Time I Was in Trouble by Rita Williams-Garcia from The Horn Book. Peek: "I remember my defiant march beyond our wooden fence . . . and making it as far as the end of the block, when I heard a howl from (I was sure) a rabid dog or a coyote. I ran home, banged on the door, and cried for my mother to let me in." See also Nobody Knows... by Betsy Hearne from The Horn Book. Read a Cynsations interview with Rita.

Contests: enter to win book giveaways from TeensReadToo. You can enter to win copies of Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Curbstone, 2009), Me, My Elf and I by Heather Swain (Speak, 2009), Crash Into Me by Albert Borris (Simon Pulse, 2009), and more! Read a Cynsations interview with Lyn.

Banned Books Week Q&A: Brent Hartinger! from Emily at The BookKids Blog! From the crazy folks at BookPeople. Peek: "The idea that we can't write about sex in a teen book when that’s one of the three or four top things on a list of topics that teenagers think about and are interested in…well, it’s ridiculous beyond words." Read a Cynsations interview with Brent.

Author Liz Garton Scanlon debuts her newly redesigned author website this week. Peek: "I can say that Louise Fitzhugh and Judy Blume made my adolescence survivable, that Mary Ann Hoberman's rhyme is the high bar I jump for, and that if I ever write a book with half the heart that Cynthia Rylant's have, I'll die happy."

In the Authors' Tent: Jeannine Garsee from Melodye Shore at Front Pages. Peek: "Martha, the main character in my first novel, was loosely based on a girl I'd met while working as a nurse on a medical floor. In STW [Say the Word (Bloomsbury, 2009)], Shawna is interested in medical school, her dad is a doctor, and there is a scene at the beginning where her mother is on life support. I obviously drew a lot of that from my own experiences as a nurse."

Interview With Author Diana Lopez by Rene Colato Lainez from La Bloga. Peek: "For me, stories start with questions, questions I don’t know the answers to. If I were wise, I wouldn't need to write. If I were wise, I'd be a priest or counselor. But I'm a writer, one who believes Robert Frost when he says, 'Poems should delight first, teach later.'" Read a Cynsations interview with Diana.

Fourteen Years Later by Ruth Pennebaker from The Fabulous Geezersisters Weblog. Peek: "Today, I've now officially been a cancer survivor for 14 years. I was 45, sitting in my home office on a beautiful fall day, when the news came." Note: Ruth's books include Both Sides Now (Laurel Leaf, 2002), which is told in alternating points of view by Liza, a 15-year-old whose mother has breast cancer, and her mother. Order a copy for your local high-school and public libraries. And, as long as I'm recommending, Ruth's Don't Think Twice (Henry Holt, 2001)--about pregnant teens in 1967--also is a riveting read.

"Boost Your Writing Time Budget" by Sheila Wipperman from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: " a writer, I have found ways to maximize the time that is available to get down and write. Here are some tips you can use to take advantage of even the busiest moments in your life. "

A Short Interview with Hope Larson about Editing from Dash Shaw at Comics Comics. Peek: "As for my editors being used to working on all-word books, most of them have been comics fans, and most of them have worked on picture books. It hasn't been a completely new language to them, for which I'm grateful." See also "Editor speaks: 'I yam what I yam" from Calista Brill at First Second Books--Doodles and Dailies. Source: Children's Book Biz News.

Screening Room

A challenge: World's Longest Domino Rally with Children's Books. A World Record? Probably. from HarperCollins UK. Source: Alvina Ling.

More Personally

I'm happy to report that the Blessed (Candlewick, spring 2011) manuscript arrived on my Candlewick editor's desk this week!

Blessed crosses over the casts of Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), picking up at the end of Tantalize with Quincie at Sanguini's.

In the meantime, I'm catching up on everything that was put on hold while the manuscript was in its last stages of this draft. That includes sending out interview questions and formatting responses for Cynsations, sending updates for the main site to my web goddess (Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys), critiquing manuscripts for a local pal, catching up on correspondence, etc. Long days, but it's nice to check to-dos off the list.

Amidst all of that, I took a look at my 2009-2010 speaking schedule, and--wow!--it's packed. However, I'm now open to 2010-2011 invitations. See contact information.

Please note that my original southwestern tall-tale picture book, Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton) will be available in fall 2010.


Enter to win a contributor-signed copy of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009)! My short story, "The Wrath of Dawn," co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, is included in the collection, and we are happy to sign and personalize the book, if the winner so desires. To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Geektastic" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Sept. 30.

Enter to win one of four paperback copies of Not Like You by Deborah Davis (Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 2009). One copy will be reserved for a teacher, librarian and/or university professor of children's-YA literature, and three will go to any Cynsations readers! To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Not Like You" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Sept. 30. Reminder: teachers, librarians, and professors should ID themselves in their entries! Read an excerpt, listen to an excerpt, see discussion guide. Read a Cynsations interview with Deborah.

Enter to win Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle by John Abbott Nez (Putnam, 2009). To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Cromwell Dixon" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Sept. 30. Read a Cynsations interview with John.


"Why You (Yes, You) Should Write a Picture Book Biography--with Chris Barton" an Austin SCBWI monthly program at 11 a.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople, 603 North Lamar, in Austin. Peek: "There's somebody out there whose life story would be best told by you--and as a picture book, no less. Austin author Chris Barton will help you figure out who the heck that person is and what on earth you should do about it." Note: Chris also will be speaking at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 18 at the Sulphur Springs (Texas) Public Library. Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.

Liz Garton Scanlon will celebrate the release of her picture book, All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/S&S), with story-time at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 26 at BookPeople in Austin.

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.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Voice: Kirstin Cronn-Mills on The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is the first-time author of The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind (Flux, 2009). From the promotional copy:

Morgan wants out of her life in Central Nowhere. Period. Nobody's listening, nobody cares. Even though life sucks (of course), her sane-and-urbane grandmother helps her cope with her crazy family, and her crush on co-worker Rob helps her cope with high school. Then sometimes-friend Tessa kisses her, and the world shifts.

As she solves the Tessa riddle, her grandma's health collapses, and family secrets emerge before Morgan's ready for them. But, as her life transforms, Morgan discovers people
are listening to her. She'd better start listening, too.

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach "edgy" behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

I knew my book was going to be considered "edgy," because it has LBGT themes. My main character, Morgan, grows up in Nebraska, which is a solidly conservative state, especially in its central and western regions, so it was easy to establish edginess based on the setting alone.

I chose to explore the edgy behavior in the book with no drama on the part of those participating in the behavior. Outrageous behavior comes instead from those who react to the edgy behavior. I wanted the edgy characters to be emotionally engaged with their tensions but not overwrought about them.

Given how LBGT issues remain contentious on the national stage, I believe my decision to juxtapose low-key decision-making with nutty outside reactions makes sense. I wanted the main characters to stay away from hysteria. Craziness got left to the haters, so they would look dumb in the face of serious, thoughtful consideration of the issues.

For example, Morgan's neighbor and classmate Tessa surprises Morgan with a kiss, so Morgan (who has two boyfriends throughout the book) has to choose how to feel about it--because she liked kissing Tessa. As the book continues, Tessa is outed and is the recipient of verbal violence from other classmates. In the midst of all the outside commotion, Morgan and Tessa are working out the parameters of their relationship. There is tension, but no extra drama. As well, Morgan is coming to terms with her possible bisexuality, which is also calmly explored.

The culmination of this storyline is a pleasantly shared dance and kiss between Morgan and Tessa at their junior prom. The repercussions of prom are intense, but Morgan and Tessa remain friends.

In terms of other kinds of edgy behavior, the book also contains references to straight sex between Morgan and her boyfriend, Derek, as well as Morgan's speculations about sex with Rob, her crush. These references are handled with relaxed sensibility, and though they're not graphic, a reader cannot misconstrue what's going on. Even Morgan's grandmother handles a discussion about sex with calmness. There are also storylines about child abuse and alcoholism, and these topics are handled with emotion, but not with overt drama.

Curse words also add to the edginess of Sky. Because Morgan is a writer who loves words, for a few drafts her favorite words were four-letter ones, and lots of them. There are still carefully chosen curse words, but well-placed F-bombs are much more effective than too many.

In general, I believe in "edginess" because I believe in getting big issues on the table, and I believe in diversity and multiculturalism, which feels pretty edgy to some people. I want to discuss difficult things in my books, because talking about taboo subjects is where we learn about the intricacies of the human condition.

As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing?

I don't think I could have asked for a better profession to prepare me for being an author.

Most specifically, being a teacher informs my writing because of audience. When I teach a literature class, I have to gauge the students' reactions to the book as I teach it, because I've got to help them connect their own experiences with the ones in the book. If I can't do that (provided they haven't done it for themselves), the experience of the book is lost to them.

Because my students are usually between the ages of 18-24, they also keep me in close contact with the needs of a YA audience--a fast pace, an ending that contains a kernel of hope, a story line about identity (in one form or another). Without an audience, a book won't succeed.

Since I can't be there in person to help Sky's audience connect with my book, I have to make Morgan and her compatriots as accessible as possible.

My students also keep me current. The first few drafts of The Sky Always Hears Me had no cell phones, thanks to their nonexistence when I was growing up and my uneasy relationship with them now. That's just plain wrong in a 21st-century teen novel, even if cell signals are difficult in central Nebraska! Students' pre-, post-, and in-class discussions also keep me up to date on pop culture trends and what's cool (or not), and give me first-hand looks into their own identity dramas. All of it gives me fodder for characters and storylines.

Teaching also helps me with my author presence. I've been presenting myself as an interesting individual for seventeen years, and creating an author persona isn't hard to do with that much public speaking experience. If I treat my book like any other literature, school visits will be as natural as conducting class!

Cynsational Notes

Scroll for photos of where Morgan lives in central Nebraska.

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.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Author Interview: Jacqueline Kelly on The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Jacqueline Kelly on Jacqueline Kelly: "Born in New Zealand, raised in western Canada, moved to Texas in high school. Undergraduate degree from UT El Paso, medical degree from UT Medical Branch Galveston, law degree UT Austin. Presently working part-time as a physician and life-care planner, forecasting future medical needs for the catastrophically injured.

"Married to astrophysicist Rob Duncan. Live in Austin and Fentress, with various dogs and cats."

Note: photo by Deanna Roy.

What kind of child were you? Who were your favorite authors?

I was a bookish child, but apparently a high-energy one (my first nickname was "Cannonball"). I think probably all writers start out as bookish children.

I adored Kenneth Grahame's The Wind In The Willows (1908), and all the Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting (1920-1952) et. al.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

I started out writing short stories some years ago, taking classes and workshops whenever I could find the time.

My novel started out life as a short story. I presented it to my writing group, and they all said that I should turn it into a novel.

My reaction to that: "Aaaargh!" It just felt like too much to take on. A short story is relatively manageable, but a novel consumes your life for far too long.

What was the single best thing you did to improve your craft? What, if anything, do you wish you'd done differently?

I got over my self-consciousness about showing my work to others. I wanted so desperately for my writing to be good, but I was worried that it might not be, so I kept it hidden away in a drawer for a long time.

If you want to improve as a writer, and if you want your work to see the light of day, you have to be willing to hold it up for criticism. Now I'll show my work to anybody. Also finding the right writing group is incredibly important.

I'm so lucky to be in a great group here in Austin. We formed during a short story writing class taught at the Writers' League of Texas by Karen Stolz about eight years ago, and we have been meeting every two weeks ever since. The critiques are incredibly useful, and we have so much fun.

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

I entered three chapters in the Writers' League Agents & Editors Conference in 2002, and ended up winning the mainstream division. The woman who judged the contest, Marcy Posner, became my agent.

At first I couldn't confess to her that what she'd read as my entry was all there was. But I think she figured it out when it took me several years to get the rest of the book to her.

The only other stumble I can think of is that I thought the first book cover Holt sent me was all wrong for the novel. I spoke to my wonderful editors at Holt about it, and they ended up re-doing the cover into what you now see. I think it's just perfect for the book. It’s a real silhouette, cut by Beth White. You can find her artwork for sale online.

How did you find out that you'd sold your first novel? Did you celebrate, and if so, how?

My agent Marcy telephoned me and told me. Unfortunately, my husband was hiking at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and was unreachable for several days!

I called my family and close friends right away, and the next day my friend Gwen and I went to the Four Seasons for a celebratory lunch and champagne.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

The book was inspired by my huge 140-year-old Victorian farm house in Fentress, a tiny community on the San Marcos River. I bought the house some years ago and promptly ran out of money to fix it up. The house is grand but falling down around my ears.

One summer, I was lying on the daybed in the living room under the ancient air conditioner, which was barely cooling the room, and I thought to myself, how did people stand it in the heat a hundred years ago, especially the women, who had to wear corsets and all those layers of clothing? And with that thought, Calpurnia and her whole family sprang to life to answer the question for me.

By the way, I made a promise to the house that if I made money from the book, I would use it to restore it to its former glory.

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

Just do it. Just sit down and write. You can't wait for the muse to show up before you sit down. It won't all be good, but a lot of it will be, and it will get better, the more you do it. Writers write.

So far, other than your own, what is your favorite children's-YA book of 2009 and why?

I love One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Truman (Candlewick, 2009), and I really enjoyed Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (Holt, 2008). Are we seeing a common thread here?

Several Austin children's-YA authors have trained as lawyers (you, me, Greg Leitich Smith, Louis Sachar, Ruth Pennebaker, Jane Peddicord). Why do you think there are so many of us?

A friend of mine, a very successful trial attorney, once said, "Every lawyer I know has got a novel hidden away in his laptop somewhere." I think it's because we all love language, and using it to convey precise ideas. Or maybe it's because so many lawyers were English majors who couldn't then figure out what to do with their degrees.

What do you do when you're not in the book world?

I spend time in Fentress, I listen to KMFA, the local 24-hour non-commercial classical station (at 89.5 on your dial--plug!), I enjoy visiting with friends and family. I love reading fiction, and I love talking about it with other fiction writers.

My husband and I travel quite a bit. Two years ago we hiked across the Grand Canyon, a feat of which I'm inordinately proud, and I have the T-shirt to prove it.

We visit New Zealand every few years to see my relatives, all of whom live there except for my parents, who live in Corpus Christi. New Zealanders are mad for dangerous outdoors activities, such as bungee jumping and zorbing. My husband has bungeed, but I haven't. I may have to jump on out next trip before I get too decrepit.

I have gone zorbing though, where they put you in a giant vinyl ball and roll you down the side of the hill. I screamed with laughter the whole way!

We also went swimming with the seals on our last trip and will go swimming with the wild dolphins on our next one.

What can your readers look forward to next?

I have started a sequel to The Wind In The Willows. It's tentatively called The Willows Redux. I only hope I don't embarrass myself. Grahame was such an amazing writer, especially considering he lived such a sad life. But Ratty, Mole, Toad, and Badger live on, and have brought so much joy to so many. The book really is for all ages.

Cynsational Notes

Learn more about The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Holt, 2009), and read an excerpt of the novel.

In the video below, check out The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate: ALA Book Talk by Lynn Rutan (a middle school librarian in Holland, Michigan; and book consultant) from Macmillan Children's Books.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Craft, Career & Cheer: Kelly Milner Halls

Learn about Kelly Milner Halls.

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

Because my topics are so unusual, two things tie as my favorite elements of my creative life -- the research and how the kids receive it. They're undeniably linked, so I feel at ease with listing them both.

As I research, as I am now for In Search of Sasquatch (Houghton Mifflin, 2011), I'll find a piece of treasure and think, "Man, the kids are going to love this."

I went to a Bigfoot gathering a few weeks ago and interviewed a college professor who had studied encoded language for the military for more than 20 years. He had analyzed Bigfoot vocalization tapes and had concluded they shared language, not just sounds--Bigfoot to Bigfoot. I was astonished, listening to his research, and I knew the kids would be electrified too.

I measure each page I write against that milestone. If it doesn't rise to my own level of expectation, it doesn't make it into the book. Because I want those kids excited about discovery and research, and I feel I have the chance to spark their flames through exposure to my own enthusiasm.

I don't imagine all kids will love what they see. But I see that one kid in my head, and I'm so excited.

When I sat down to write that passage--and others--this summer, I wrote feeling super charged with that thought in mind. Then, when I do a series of school visits and get to talk to kids about that piece of treasure, it's like finding it all over again, this time with the kid I was picturing by my side. It's the ultimate pay-off for the hard work I do.

Awards are nice, and they are always appreciated. But that kid's reaction, that's the real measure of my success. I hope I can do this forever.

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

I love what I described in my previous answer, meeting the kids and sharing the wonders with them most, but I also love meeting other authors and illustrators.

Writing is such a solitary career choice. Even writing nonfiction, with all the travel and research and interviews that involves, is solitary. Because the people you meet to build a book are professional associates, not personal friends. They are wonderful, and some actually become friends after a book is completed. But the focus is somewhat narrow talking to each subject. It has to be to stay on track with the outlined book. Even if we get off track, it's for the good of the project, which is in itself fairly narrow. So those human connections are limited.

Meeting other authors--just for the joy of it--is practically the opposite in nature. You may or may not make a real connection, but the possibility is always there. They, at the very least, understand the work you've chosen to do and all the unique demands that go with it. And that's a comfort in an otherwise alien world. But once in a while, you make a friend -- a real soul mate. And that's such a special gift.

Whether I find a friend for life or a friend for the moment, every author I've had the chance to meet and talk with has been a treasure to me. That, along with the kids, is my favorite part of being a writer.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes, illustrated by William Sumner (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2009) will be out this fall. After that will be In Search of Sasquatch (Houghton Mifflin, 2010 or 2011). Then I'll finish up Alien Encounters, a follow-up to Tales of the Cryptids, co-authored by Rick Spears and Roxyanne Young (Darby Creek, 2006).

I don't have a publisher for Aliens yet, but I will soon, if only by sheer determination. The kids want it, so I'll find a way to deliver it.

After that, I'm headed to Australia to a bat rescue hospital for a book project. And I have an early picture book about a T.rex family I hope to have firm news about soon, as well. Also, a book series proposal I'm shopping. To be continued.

As always, I have a lot of new projects in the works. Wish there were more hours in the day.

Cynsational Notes

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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