Friday, October 02, 2009

Beyond Reality, Winner-Take-All, Spooky Cynsational Multi YA Books Giveaway

In celebration of the "Read Beyond Reality" theme of Teen Read Week, which is scheduled for Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, and the spooky season now upon us, I'm offering the biggest, winner-take-all Cynsational giveaway ever, with an emphasis on my latest release, Eternal (Candlewick, 2009), and several spooktacular read-alikes!

You can enter to win:

"At last, Miranda is the life of the party: all she had to do was die. Elevated and adopted by none other than the reigning King of the Mantle of Dracul, Miranda goes from high-school theater wannabe to glamorous royal fiend overnight.

"Meanwhile, her reckless and adoring guardian angel, Zachary, demoted to human guise as the princess's personal assistant, has his work cut out for him trying to save his girl’s soul and plan the Master's fast-approaching Death Day gala.

"In alternating points of view, Miranda and Zachary navigate a cut-throat eternal aristocracy as they play out a dangerous and darkly hilarious love story for the ages." Read an excerpt. See trailer by Shayne Leighton.

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors (Walker, 2009). Peek: "When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother's coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over.

"Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down. Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions, and now he won't leave until he can reward Katrina's selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire.

"Fame and fortune seem like the obvious requests, but after two botched wishes, Malcolm knows Katrina is hiding something from him. How can she tell him the truth, when her heart's desire has become Malcolm himself?

"Fans of romantic comedies will be clamoring for this heartfelt novel that is good to the last drop."

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2009). From the promotional copy: "Years have passed since Alice lost her mother to cancer, but time hasn't quite healed the wound. Alice copes the best she can be writing her music, losing herself in her love for her boyfriend, and distancing herself from her father and his new wife.

"But when a deadly snowstorm traps Alice with her stepmother and newborn half sister, she'll face issues she's been avoiding for too long. As Alice looks to the heavens for guidance, she discovers something wonderful.

"Perhaps she's not so alone after all..."

How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray (Candlewick, November 2009). From the promotional copy: "Here the secrets of the undead are revealed, from how to be turned to how to fill eternity once you've been bitten, including: telling your family that you're a child of the night; dressing like the mysterious creature you are; and dos and don'ts of dating a mortal."

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009). From the promotional copy: "Marrying a vampire definitely doesn't fit into Jessica Packwood's senior year 'get-a-life' plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth, and he's her long-lost fiance. Armed with new-found confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire's Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess.

"But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war, and save Lucius's soul from eternal destruction."

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (Simon Pulse, 2008); "In a romantic and suspenseful collection of the New York Times bestselling trilogy (Kissed by an Angel; The Power of Love; Soulmates), love's unbreakable bonds are put to the test.

"When her boyfriend, Tristan, died, Ivy thought she'd lost everything, even her faith in angels. But now she's discovered that he's her guardian angel--his presence so strong that she can feel the touch of his hand, the beat of his heart. Ivy needs Tristan now more than ever because he knows she's in terrible danger. Only Ivy's guardian angel can save her now that his killer is after her.

"But if Tristan rescues Ivy, his mission on earth will be finished, and he must leave her behind forever. Will saving Ivy mean losing her just when he's finally reached her again?"

Vamped by Lucienne Diver (Flux, 2009). From the promotional copy: "Vampire vixen Mellisande has taken an interest in my boyfriend, and is now transforming the entire high school into her own personal vampire army. If anyone's going to start their own undead entourage it should be me.

"I guess I'll just have to save everyone from fashion disasters and other fates worse than death."

To enter this mega giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Read Beyond Reality" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header; I'll contact you if you win).

You will get an extra chance to win for each of the following:

(1) you blog about the giveaway and link to my related announcement posts at Cynsations at Blogger, LiveJournal, JacketFlap, MySpace or Spookycyn (send me the URL to your post with your entry);

(2) you post the link to your Facebook or Twitter page (find me at Twitter and Facebook and message me on those systems so I can take a look);

(3) you are a YA teacher or librarian (indicate school/library with your entry message);

(4) you are a book blogger (teen or grown-up)(include the URL to your blog with your entry).

Deadline: midnight CST Oct. 30.

Good luck, stay spooky, and watch this blog for Teen Read Week interviews with several of the authors featured above!

Cynsational Notes

Check back during Teen Read Week--Oct. 18 to Oct. 24--for a chance to win the newly released Immortal: Love Stories with Bite, edited by P.C. Cast (BenBella, Oct. 2009)!

This edition includes a new short story by Rachel Vincent. This vampire-themed YA anthology also includes short stories by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kristin Cast, Rachel Caine, Tanith Lee, Nancy Holder, Richelle Mead, Rachel Vincent, and Claudia Gray.

Note: Immortal will be available at bookstores nation-wide on Oct. 6.

Cynsational Events

"Beyond Daily Life" readergirlz Chat will feature Cynthia Leitich Smith (Eternal), rgz diva Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), and Lisa McMann (Wake) on Oct. 21. "It all happens at the rgz forum ( beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (7 p.m. Mountain Time, 8 p.m. Central Standard Time, 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time)." See the whole readergirlz "Read Beyond Reality" chat schedule for Oct. 19 to Oct. 23. See also more information.

The Texas Book Festival take place Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in Austin. 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! Note: I'll be speaking on a panel "Deals with the Devil: Writing about Faustian Bargains" with Daniel and Dina Nayeri from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Texas State Capitol Building, signing to immediately follow.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Jill S. Alexander: official site of the debut author of The Sweetheart of Prosper County (Feiwel and Friends, 2009). Jill hails from Tyler, Texas. Peek: "An interest in novels came late for me in my rural East Texas hometown. With no public library and few books, save one full set of encyclopedias, I learned poetry from church hymnals and storytelling from eccentric relatives." Read Jill's LJ.

So You Want to Be an Unlikable Narrator by Alex Flinn at I Plan To Be a Diva Someday... Peek: "I think that a viewpoint character needs to be interesting, as in charismatic, different from the reader, someone the reader would like to watch." Read a Cynsations interview with Alex.

Answering the question "How do you find the time?" from Lisa Schroeder at Author2Author. Peek: "You have to learn how to get in some writing even when you don't have a lot of time. If you only have 15 minutes that day, make the most of that 15 minutes." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Cynsational Tip: spell out the contents of your blog post in its title. Consider: would you be more likely to click a post titled "Lately..." or one titled, say, "A Response to Agent Michael Stearns on Morality in YA Lit, How and When to Pitch, and More."

What’s Age Got to Do with It? by Justine Larbalestier. Peek: "It feeds into the myth of genius, of someone just producing great work full blown out of nowhere, without an apprenticeship, without any hard yakka, or learning, or improving. I happen not to believe in genius. I don't believe art comes out of nowhere." Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

Congratulations to R.L. LaFevers on the release of Nathaniel Fludd: Beastolologist, The Flight of the Phoenix, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)! From the promotional copy: "Nathaniel Fludd's life has taken a turn for the worst. With his parents lost at sea, he lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin, the world's last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world's only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone. Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and rescue his guardian from the Bedouin? If he fails, nothing will stand between the world's mythical creatures and extinction. Too bad Nate's not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure . . .yet."

Marvelous Marketer: Jill Santopolo (Executive Editor, Philomel Books) from Shelli at Market My Words: a children's book author/marketing consultant rants about how authors can market their books to kids. Peek: "I'm looking for good books for middle grade girl readers. I'd love a contemporary, realistic, commercial series or two that focus on a core group of friends--something that would be today's equivalent of The Baby-sitters Club [by Ann M. Martin (Scholastic)]." Read a Cynsations interview with Jill.

'Exquisite Corpse' An Online Adventure For Kids from National Public Radio. Peek: "Host Guy Raz strolls down to the National Mall, where kid-book authors Jon Scieszka and Kate DiCamillo are introducing The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, an online serial story written by a posse of children's authors. It premiered Saturday at the National Book Festival." Source: Brenda Bowen.

Reminder: enter to win the Reading is Fundamental/Super Contest sponsored by Lee A Verday at Lee A. Verday's Book/Writing Blog. Winner-take-all prize package includes: a signed copy of The Hollow by Jessica Verday (Simon Pulse, September 2009); a "R.U.H2?" T-shirt (R-U-H-Squared?)(Stands for aRe yoU Haunted by the Hollow?); Ruined: A Ghost Story by Paula Morris (Point, 2009); The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central, 2009); The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day (Grand Central, 2009); Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009); and an "I HEART My Guardian Angel" T-shirt (which ties into Eternal)! New followers of Lee's blog can also enter to win a signed ARC of Darklight by Lesley Livingston (HarperCollins, December 2009)! Deadline: midnight PST Oct. 12. See more information.

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Bonnie Christensen by Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "If I'm writing and illustrating, I always complete the manuscript first, then step back and change hats. Ideally, I can let the manuscript ferment for a while before tackling it from the illustrator perspective."

Why Boys Aren't Reading by P.J. Hoover from Roots in Myth. Peek: "...this past week it dawned on me—why is it always a mother-daughter book club? What about the boys?" Read a Cynsations interview with P.J.

Writing Through Family Challenges by Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid. Peek: "I don't know what challenges you are personally facing, either in your own family and marriage and health or with someone else's. But I encourage you to do whatever is necessary so that it doesn’t overtake your writing life."

Heidi R. Kling: new official site of the debut author of Sea (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, June 2010). Peek: "I applied for a spot in the MFA Writing for Children program at the New School. My imagination leapt, picturing myself hanging out in hip, Greenwich Village coffee shops with edgy, beret-wearing writers. Turns out my imagination wasn't that far off—though beret-sightings were few and far between—I did find the perfect setting to practice my voice and learn more about the genre of writing that seemed innate to me: writing for teens and young adults."

What Do Literary Agents Do? by Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "An agent will carefully select the best editors to consider a particular project, but at the end of the day an agent never quite knows who is going to respond the strongest to a particularly project." See also Nathan on Submitting to Editors Without An Agent and Queries from Previously Published Authors. Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Banned Books Week Q&A: Maureen Johnson from Emily at the BookKids Blog. Peek: "So mostly, you're left wondering why these crazy people have singled out your book. It seems like the process is always pretty random: Your book happens to be around. Your book ends up in a class. Your book gets passed along by a friend. There are a lot of potential book banners out there. Sometimes, you fall into their sights."

The September Carnival of Children's Literature from Susan Taylor Brown. Peek: "We have a little bit of something for everyone this fine carnival day." Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.

The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Greg Couch (Knopf, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "...describes Farnsworth's modest upbringing in Utah and his flash of inspiration while plowing a potato field when he was 14 (which he subsequently described to his science teacher) that led to his development of the first working 'image dissector' at age 21."

In the Authors' Tent: Sara Zarr from Melodye Shore at Front Pages. Peek: "I did grow up in a church community and always wanted to write a character in that soil in a way that wasn't an alarmist story about cults or clergy-abuse (though there have been some good ones dealing with those things), but just an everyday kind of life in which church is part of the tapestry along with school and home." Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Being Stubborn by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Random Thoughts on the Art and Craft of Fiction Writing. Peek: "Contrary to movie and TV show notions of reality, most people do not have a dream that fills their life. They have desires. Every single one of us has those and we have them all the time. But the big dream is rare. If you have it, you will not be understood by most people." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

The Storyteller's Inkpot from five award-winning authors, all professors at Hamline University's MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Contributors: Anne Ursu; Mary Logue; Ron Koertge; Marsha Wilson Chall; and Marsha Qualey. Read Cynsations interviews with Ron and Marsha.

Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel by by K.A. Holt (Random House 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "...a clever and fun middle grade adventure, both funny and action-packed. Altogether, an excellent debut novel." See K.A.'s Holt's Online Disaster.

"The Vampire's Assistant" Giveaway from the Compulsive Reader. Peek: "'The Vampire's Assistant' is a cool new movie releasing late this month, based on the books by Darren Shan, and I am hosting a giveaway for some cool swag!" Deadline: Oct. 23. Read a Cynsations interview with Darren.

It's Self-Promotion Month! at Three Silly Chicks. Note: "Is there something you'd like to promote today? A new book, blog, website or hairstyle? If so, say it loud and say it proud, Peeps! We'd love to hear about it!"

Call for Submissions from literary agent Sara Crowe at Crowe's Nest. Note: Sara is back from maternity leave and calling for queries from prospective clients. She talks about her YA literature tastes, initial representation queries from now clients, and what about those letters/manuscripts appealed her. Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Authors on Twitter from Blogging YA. See also Children's Picture Book Authors & Illustrators on Twitter from Tara Lazar at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). Note: find me at

Giveaway of S Is For Story by Esther Hershenhorn, illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Sleeping Bear, 2009) from Esther Hershenhorn at Teaching Authors: Six Children's Authors Who Also Teach Writing. Peek: "All you need do is (1) read and consider the twenty-six A-to-Z words I selected to best represent a writer’s life and process (listed below), then (2) submit via the comment form at the end of this post, using twenty-five words or less, the lettered entry you would have included and let us know why." Deadline: midnight Oct. 12. See details.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: An Interview from Pat Esden. Peek: "It's a darkly romantic story about a girl who falls for a fallen angel with a dark agenda to become human. It's being labeled as a paranormal romance, but it has a strong psychological suspense element."

Mapping Banned Books in the U.S. from Jason Boog from GalleyCat. Peek: "This map is drawn from cases documented by the ALA and the Kids' Right to Read Project, a collaboration of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression."

2009 Nominations are now open for the Cybils 2009: Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. Peek: "All kids books published in English between Oct. 16, 2008 and the close of this year's nominations are eligible. Nominations close at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 15." Note: much easier procedure this year! However, please double check the publication date of your nominees, especially if you're like me and read a lot of ARCs...

Spooky Season/Beyond Reality Giveaway

In celebration of the "Read Beyond Reality" theme of Teen Read Week, which is scheduled for Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, and the spooky season now upon us, I'm offering the biggest, winner-take-all Cynsational giveaway ever, with an emphasis on Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) and spectacular read-alikes! You can enter to win: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2009); Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors (Walker, 2009); Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse, 2009); How to Be a Vampire: A Fangs-On Guide for the Newly Undead by Amy Gray (Candlewick, November 2009); Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (Harcourt, 2009); Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler (Simon Pulse, 2008); and Vamped by Lucienne Diver (Flux, 2009). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Read Beyond Reality" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the name in the header; I'll contact you if you win).

You will get an extra chance to win for each of the following: (1) you blog about the giveaway and link to my related announcement posts at Cynsations at Blogger, LiveJournal, JacketFlap, MySpace or Spookycyn (send me the URL to your post with your entry); (2) you post the link to your Facebook page or tweet it (find me at Twitter and Facebook and CC me on those systems so I can take a look); (3) you are a YA teacher, librarian, or university professor of youth literature (indicate school/library with your entry); (4) you are a book blogger (teen or grown-up)(include the URL to your blog with your entry message). Deadline: midnight CST Oct. 30. Good luck and stay spooky!

Cynsational Winners

The winner of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009), signed by contributors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, is Sara in Illinois. The winners of Not Like You by Deborah Davis (Graphia/Houghton Mifflin, 2009) are Brittany from Hall Memorial Library in New Hampshire, Lisa in Florida, Sandra in Texas, and Tashia in Michigan. The winner of Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle by John Abbott Nez (Putnam, 2009) is Joseph in Arizona.

Liz Garton Scanlon Book Launch

Author Liz Garton Scanlon--along with a standing-room-only crowd of cheering fans--celebrated the release of her picture book, All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/S&S), with storytime and signing on Sept. 26 at BookPeople.

Here's a peek at the festivities!

Liz signs for fellow Austin writer Erin Edwards, as the line flows all the way back around the screen and beyond. For her presentation, Liz asked that younger children gather in the front on the floor so that she could read to them directly while Marla's illustrations were simultaneously beamed onto the screen so the large group of grown-ups could follow along.

Austin SCBWI founder Meredith Davis smiles with author/educator Debbie Gonzales. See Debbie's report on the festivities at Simple Saturdays. Read a Cynsations interview with Debbie.

Author Polly Robertus models All the World!

And so does author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell, standing with author Chris Barton. Congratulations to Chris on last week's sale of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, "the story of a man who in ten years went from teenage field slave to Reconstruction-era Congressman" to Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Read Cynsations interviews with Mark and Chris.

Fellow author Jessica Lee Anderson popped in for the event from this weekend's Pecan Street Festival. Note: Jessica (Border Crossings (Milkweed, 2009)) and P.J. Hoover (The Forgotten Worlds Book 2: The Navel of the World (CBAY, 2009)) will co-host a joint book release party at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 at BookPeople. Read Cynsations interviews with Jessica and P.J.

Don't miss the All the World book trailer below.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2009): a recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith at GregLSBlog. Peek: "This gem of a picture book follows a family through a summer day, highlighting in rhyming groups of four the interrelatedness of small and large things."

More Personally

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Megan Prescott on the release of Squirrel and Oak: A Story of Hope, illustrated by Megan Prescott and Cheryl Wawrzynowicz (Halo, 2009)! This rhyming, self-help picture book focuses on grief/healing. Peek: "The story was inspired by the author’s real life experience of losing her mother and brother within a month of each other when she was 19 years old." Learn more.

Welcome to the incoming attendees of VCFA Day in the Lone Star State! And a special cheer to fellow incoming faculty members, Kathi Appelt, Sharon Darrow, and Uma Krishnaswami as well as to event coordinator Debbie Gonzales!

Cynsational Events

"Beyond Daily Life" readergirlz Chat will feature Cynthia Leitich Smith (Eternal), rgz diva Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), and Lisa McMann (Wake) on Oct. 21. "It all happens at the rgz forum ( beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (7 p.m. Mountain Time, 8 p.m. Central Standard Time, 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time)." See the whole readergirlz "Read Beyond Reality" chat schedule for Oct. 19 to Oct. 23. See also more information. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

The Texas Book Festival take place Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 in Austin. 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! Note: I'll be speaking on a panel "Deals with the Devil: Writing about Faustian Bargains" with Daniel and Dina Nayeri from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Texas State Capitol Building, signing to immediately follow.

SCBWI-Illinois' Fifth Annual Prairie Writer's Day: Brick by Brick: The Architecture of Our Stories will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. Speakers include: Stacy Cantor, associate editor at Walker; Nick Eliopulos, associate editor at Random House; T.S. Ferguson, assistant editor at Little, Brown; Yolanda LeRoy, editorial director at Charlesbridge; Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author and Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member; and Michael Stearns, agent and co-founder of Upstart Crow Literary. Read Cynsations interviews with Yolanda and Michael. Note: Michael has recently changed literary agencies; you can now find him at Upstart Crow Literary.

Destination Publication: An Awesome Austin Conference for Writers and Illustrators is scheduled for Jan. 30 and sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Keynote speakers are Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson and Caldecott Honor author-illustrator Marla Frazee, who will also offer an illustrator breakout and portfolio reviews. Presentations and critiques will be offered by editor Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, author-editor Lisa Graff of FSG, agent Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary, agent Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency, and agent Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Advanced critique break-out sessions will be led by editor Stacy Cantor of Bloomsbury. In addition, Cheryl and author Sara Lewis Holmes will speak on the editor-and-author relationship, and Marla and author Liz Garton Scanlon will speak on the illustrator-and-author relationship. Note: Sara and Liz also will be offering manuscript critiques. Illustrator Patrice Barton will offer portfolio reviews. Additional authors on the speaker-and-critique faculty include Jessica Lee Anderson, Chris Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jacqueline Kelly, Philip Yates, Jennifer Ziegler. See registration form, information packet, and conference schedule (all PDF files)!

2010 Houston-SCBWI Conference will be held on Feb. 20, 2010 at the Merrell Center in Katy. Registration is now open. Faculty includes Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author and Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member; Ruta Rimas, assistant editor at Balzar & Bray/HarperCollins; Patrick Collins, creative director at Henry Holt; Alexandra Cooper, senior editor at Simon & Schuster; Lisa Ann Sandell, senior editor at Scholastic; and Sara Crowe, agent at Harvey Klinger. Note: "All the speakers will be doing critiques. Critique spots are limited." See registration and information. Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Editor Interview: Liz Waniewski on Dial Books for Young Readers

Liz Waniewski on Liz Waniewski: "I'm an editor at Dial Books for Young Readers, which is an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, and have been here for eight years. I like to keep my brain thinking creatively so I edit picture books as well as middle grade and young adult novels.

"Some of the recent books I edited include the New York Times bestselling Ladybug Girl books by Jacky Davis and David Soman (2008, 2009), The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz (2009), The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank (2009), March Toward the Thunder by Joseph Bruchac (2008), and Keena Ford and the Field Trip Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson and Frank Morrison (2009)."

What were you like as a young(er) reader?

I read everything I could get my hands on, especially anything by Diana Wynne Jones and Lloyd Alexander.

I stayed up way too late at night reading, and would pretend to be asleep when my parents came in to check on me, so that I could turn my light on again after they left.

We went to the library every week or two, and I'd take out a stack of anything that looked good--all from the kids’ section because I was not ready for the adult stuff. Sometimes I think I’m still not!

What inspired you to build a career in children's-YA literature?

When I was in college as an English major, everyone would ask me what I was going to do with that (kind of like that song from "Avenue Q," "What Do You Do with a B.A. In English?").

I realized that when I wasn't reading for class, I was still going to the YA section of the bookstore and library to find new books by my favorite authors. If I could get paid to read and make those books, it would be my dream job because I was going to be reading them anyway! Becoming a children’s book editor really was the best possible option for me.

What makes Dial special? How is it different from other houses/imprints?

The people who work at Dial are what makes this imprint so special. Our team is the most supportive, creative, encouraging, and smart group of people I’ve ever worked with.

My editorial and design colleagues care so much about making great books--and not just making sure their own books are great, but that everyone's are. Everyone backs everyone else up, ready to do a second (or third, or fourth!) read on a manuscript, or talk through tricky problems, or brainstorm new ideas. I feel lucky every day being able to work with this fantastic group, and I think these qualities show in the kinds of books we publish.

What about it attracted you?

I knew about a certain book of Dial's long before I knew the imprint. It's called Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale by Verna Aardema and Leo and Diane Dillon (1975), and was featured on "Reading Rainbow" when I was a kid.

I loved that book, and when I was interviewing at different houses after college, I finally made the connection between book and imprint. If Dial published something I already loved, I knew it would be a good place for me.

What kind of books appeal to you most? Why?

I love that I get to work with all different formats and genres. It takes a different kind of creative thinking to work on picture books than it does to work on novels, and it makes my days exciting to be able to do both.

For me, it is the story that matters above genre and format, and a good story in any genre is a good story. And my idea of a good story is one that looks at a universal kid or teen concern/emotion/situation in a fresh and unique way, that is told with an authentic kid or teen voice, and that keeps me turning the pages and taking me to places I didn't expect, but that still grows organically from the story itself.

Most importantly, these stories are character-driven and everything happens in them because of the actions, choices, and motivations of the main character (rather than happening to the main character).

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

I would recommend studying Dial's current list, as well as what we've published in the last two years or so. This will help you get a good idea about the kinds of books Dial publishes, what we've already done, what our illustration style is, and where our gaps might be.

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

Make sure you know the company's submission guidelines (PDF file). It is easy to find these now by looking at websites. It is also important to study the current books put out by the imprints you are interested in submitting to (as per above).

How about for illustrators?

I would offer the same advice as for writers, but be sure to never send original artwork. You never know when something may get lost in the mail.

Could you describe your dream writer?

My dream writer is someone who is open-minded and ready and willing to revise! It is someone who works with me to make the best book possible.

Which of your new or upcoming books should we look for? What about each of them spoke to you?

I’m very excited about a sci-fi/fantasy called Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, which will be coming out in the new year. This is the first of this genre that I've worked on, even though I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy junkie in my spare time. Because I'm such a big fan, I'm extremely picky when it comes to this genre, and this is the first book that has crossed my desk that totally blew me away. There's incredible world-building, non-stop action, crazy twists, a tortured hero and a strong-willed heroine, and oh yeah, a sentient prison. Wow.

As for picture books, I can't wait for Tutus Aren't My Style by Linda Skeers and Anne Wilsdorf and Name that Dog! by Peggy Archer and debut illustrator Stephanie Buscema. The heroine in Tutus is a girl after my own heart–much more of a tomboy than a ballerina. And the twenty-six poems about different kinds of dogs in Name that Dog! make me laugh and love dogs even more than I already do.

As a reader, so far what have been your three favorite children's-YA books of 2009 and why?

Okay, this is really difficult! I'm not including any Dial books here, because those are all my favorites and it is too hard to narrow down. But three that have stuck with me so far this year are Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, 2009), The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer (Philomel, 2009), and Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

I’m not sure I could read Wintergirls again, but there are images seared into my brain from this book, and the immediacy and beauty of the writing immediately sucked me in.

The Enola Holmes mysteries are fantastic, so smart, terrifically researched, and with one of the most forward-thinking heroines to come along in a while; this is the latest in the series.

Front and Center is the third book in the Dairy Queen trilogy. It made me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same sentence, and D.J. Schwenck is alive to me–the way she is drawn is the way I wish I knew all main characters: intimately, with unique but real quirks, and a voice that jumps off the page.

What do you do outside the world of youth literature?

I love playing sports, and in the winter I run a pitching clinic for a girls' softball organization in Harlem, called Harlem RBI. I'm also a big theater fan, especially musical theater, and try to go to as many shows as I can. Living in NYC makes that easier!

If I wasn’t an English major in college, I would have been a history major, so I frequent all the museums in the city too. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is my current favorite.

Cynsational Notes

Read more interviews with editors and publishers at

readergirlz Urges Teens to Read Beyond Reality; Hosts Series of Author Chats

In Support of YALSA's Teen Read Week, readergirlz hosts live author chats with many Teens' Top Ten Nominees for 2009; featured authors include Cynthia Leitich Smith

(Seattle, Wash.) - Teen Read Week, a week-long celebration of literacy, is scheduled for Oct. 18-24, 2009, and will include live chats with top teen authors on, the most popular online reading community for teen girls.

Since 1998, Teen Read Week has been run by the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Service Association. This year's theme is "Read Beyond Reality." Teens are also visiting the YALSA website to vote for their favorite books from a list of nominees. Winners who've made the Teens' Top Ten will be announced via a webcast during Teen Read Week.

In support of this tremendous literary initiative, the readergirlz divas will host nine young-adult authors - eight of whom are nominees for the Teens' Top Ten - throughout Teen Read Week.

By visiting, teens will be able to chat with these author stars, live, to ask burning questions about the authors' books, find out about their daily lives, and learn about their writing process.

The week's chats will culminate with an online gala celebration, where Sylvia Engdahl, a pioneer in young-adult science fiction, will be hosted and honored for her contributions to the literary landscape.

Like the monthly chats readergirlz is known for, the five-day series of candid online conversations with authors includes giveaways of signed books and swag from Promising to be a stellar week, the complete line-up is as follows:

o Monday, Oct. 19: Beyond Imagination with authors Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), Alyson Noël (Evermore) and Zoe Marriott (Daughter of the Flames)

o Tuesday, Oct. 20: Beyond Hardship with rgz diva Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Elizabeth Scott (Living Dead Girl) and Lynn Weingarten (Wherever Nina Lies)

o Wednesday, Oct. 21: Beyond Daily Life with rgz diva Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), Lisa McMann (Wake) and Cynthia Leitich Smith (Eternal)

o Thursday, Oct. 22: Beyond Our World with rgz diva Melissa Walker (Lovestruck Summer), Cassandra Clare (City of Angels) and Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go)

o Friday, Oct. 23: Into Our Beyond with rgz diva Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia) and pioneering YA sci-fi author Sylvia Engdahl (Enchantress from the Stars)

It all happens at the rgz forum ( beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (7 Mountain Time, 8 Central Standard Time, 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time), Oct. 19-23.

In conjunction with the author chats, readergirlz also will be hosting a Teen Read Week Tribute. Anyone who loves YALSA's Teen Read Week is encouraged to let it out on their blog through a post or vlog, then send the link to (subject line: entrant's name, TRW Tribute). readergirlz will collect all contributions and post them at the rgz blog in a tribute that will run October 23.

About readergirlz

readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by five critically acclaimed YA authors - Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Holly Cupala (Tell Me a Secret), Lorie Ann Grover (Hold Me Tight), Justina Chen Headley (North of Beautiful), and Melissa Walker (Lovestruck Summer). readergirlz is the recipient of a 2007 James Patterson PageTurner Award, and the 2009 National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize.

To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month. Twice a year, readergirlz holds special literacy projects, including Operation Teen Book Drop which has donated 20,000 new YA books to hospitalized teens.

For more information about readergirlz, please visit and, or contact

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Voice: C. Lee McKenzie on Sliding on the Edge

C. Lee McKenzie is the first-time author of Sliding on the Edge (WestSide Books, 2009). From the promotional copy:

It's not a heart-grabbing noise like when somebody jiggles the doorknob to see if it's locked. It's not a bitter smell like the electrical short we had last month, when all the breakers popped.

No. It's something in the air, something like a ghost making its way through the room. And it can’t be Monster, not after last night.

Shawna Stone is sixteen going on twenty-five. Already deeply scarred, she has learned to survive with a tough attitude and a thin blade. Her journey is destined to be short.

Sliding on the Edge enters the world of a desperate teen and her disillusioned grandmother, each with secrets that stir mutual distrust. As these two unlikely companions struggle to co-exist, we are reminded that the human spirit has the capacity to overcome even the deepest suffering.

Are you a plotter or a plunger? Do you outline first, write to explore first, or engage some combination of the two? Then where do you go from there? What about this approach appeals to you? What advice do you have for beginning writers struggling with plot?

I'm definitely a plunger. Before I set out, I usually have in mind where I want my characters to be when I write "The End." Once I've got a rough draft--beginning, middle, and end--I go into revision mode, and I may re-write a manuscript several times. Each time, more comes to the character or the setting, and I do tweak the plot along the way when I spot things that seem contrived.

I like plunging because I love to let the new idea out as soon as I have it in my head. That first draft is sometimes terrible, but if, after I finish it, I like the idea and the people, I get excited. Then the real writing begins.

When I struggle with plot it's because I don't know my people well enough. I often set a project aside until I hear them talking, see how they move, know what they eat, or how they choose their friends--when these kinds of things come, then the plot rolls onto the page.

I guess my advice to writers is know your characters and let them lead the way.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you find the voice of your first person protagonist? Did you do character exercises?

I can't do exercises to write a story about someone. I've tried, but I fall asleep after I make the first notation. Then I lose interest in writing. So, "no to exercises" for me.

Did you make an effort to listen to how young people talk?

I don't go out of my way to find young people, but I am guilty of eavesdropping when I happen to be near a group. It embarrasses my family, so I usually turn into a snoop when I'm by myself.

Did you simply free your inner kid or adolescent? And, if it seemed to come by magic, how would you suggest others tap into that power in their own writing?

I suppose a lot of my voice is in Shawna, my first-person protagonist in Sliding on the Edge. She's a little more mouthy than I was when I was a kid. My grandmother would have had none of that kind of talk in her house.

Thinking about it now, I guess I turned some of that inner adolescent loose, but the character isn't me. She's unique with quirks and fears and enough spunk to survive in her world.

I can't say I found her voice by magic. It was more by connecting with the character on a very intimate level. I slept with Shawna "talking" to me for over a year.

Every writer has to find a way into her characters, so my advice would be to experiment until you find what works, and then do it.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Oh dear. I'm such a turtle in this respect. However, I have navigated through the online maze, and I'm on so many sites now that I need crib notes. I have a great website, but all I did was provide the information. My web designer did the Flash-Fabulous stuff.

I'm very lucky to have great writers in my life who are supportive and more knowledgeable than I am. Then I stumbled into 2009 Debutantes, and they've provided amazing help. I feel like I owe all of them a lot.

I have my days when I'm absolutely ecstatic; then on others, I could use a counselor to hold me above water. It's really like being on a roller coaster for me, but I wouldn't miss the ride.

As far as advice, I think I'd tell writers who are serious about publishing to create an online presence before they sell one book. I know a few people who have done that, and when they become published, they will have a head start on making that book successful.

Cynsational Notes

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, September 29, 2009

Craft, Career & Cheer: April Pulley Sayre

Learn about April Pulley Sayre.

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

Wow, I love so many aspects of the creative life. That feeling of inspiration makes me feel alive. My favorite part about the creative life is its flexibility. I can pursue projects I am passionate about. I can change topics month-to-month or year-to-year.

Writing nonfiction books gives me an excuse to explore and learn what I’d like to know anyway. Even when I write about assigned topics, I discover things that surprise and delight my brain.

The time flexibility is important, too. I work 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. But I don't have to commute, and I schedule it as I please. I can run outside to look at a butterfly or photograph a squirrel that is doing headstands. I can stop all work to rescue a wood duck orphan or toads crossing a road. I just stopped in the middle of typing this to watch a baby downy woodpecker being fed by its parent on a tree trunk eight feet from my computer.

This flexibility allows me to fit my life to nature's seasons, particularly to migration, which is my lifelong passion. My husband and I have weeks blocked out on our calendar for bird migration and wildflower blooming. Any trip can be "research" for a book. Working at home, interspersed with travel for conferences and school talks, suits my personality.

Crafting speeches and programs is as much a creative joy as book writing. It gives me a use for the tens of thousands of photos and videos I have taken while traveling to rain forests, coral reefs, and other biomes. So, that public aspect of the children’s book author life has been a surprise and a delight.

When you write a book, you have no idea who will read it. But then, to go out and actually see kids getting fired up about writing and science...and educators pouring their creativity into their work . . . it inspires me. It fires me up to write more!

How have you come to thrive in such a competitive, unpredictable industry?

Be who you are, do what you do best, and eventually that will come into fashion. Oh, and take your vitamins so you can live that long. Yes, I am joking around here. You have to laugh a lot in this crazy business. It is a business.

I favor thinking about it as a business. Don't just try to figure out the publishing business. Read business books from other fields. See how they might apply to what you do. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. That’s important, especially as publishing changes because of digital technology.

The best thing you can do is to make friends with writers and other folks in the publishing business. Read their blogs. Keep in touch by email or in person. They will give you perspective and give you good advice, i.e. keep you from selling yourself short in moments of weakness.

The most important thing is not to remain a solitary writer, with no clue about the business. You need to know what is customary and what your rights are. An agent or literary lawyer can help.

Another bit of advice: don’t burn bridges. Be professional in your interactions. Again and again, this has helped me. People I worked with, peripherally, at one company have ended up at another company years later. They remembered me, my writing, and the ease of working with me.

Every six months, like most writers, I entertain getting some kind of sensible job with a bi-weekly paycheck and more predictability. But then, after searching jobs online, I get over it. Because, doggone it, I just love what I do.

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

My most recently released book is Honk, Honk, Goose! Canada Geese Start a Family (Holt, 2009). It is a narrative nonfiction picture book illustrated by Huy Vuon Lee. It is great for studies of life cycles. It began, as many of my books do, with experience. For many years we had Canada geese nesting in our yard, on the edge of a creek. So I watched every step of their family life from fluffy nest to fluffy chicks to what my husband and I call the "dinosaurs," that hilarious juvenile stage when the young geese are awkward and flapping.

As one reviewer pointed out, this book, instead of just celebrating mother goose, celebrates father goose! It focuses on the defensive role of the male Canada goose. But that sounds rather serious. When you read the book, you can see that the father goose’s chasing things is protective, but it’s also a little over the top sometimes. I can speak to this because I have been chased and hissed at many times. I actually had to learn to stand tall, chase back, and do a little hissing of my own in order to reach my garden.

I am glad that readers and reviewers have embraced Honk, Honk, Goose. Next year I have two narrative nonfiction books being released. One is a re-illustrated, revised and updated edition: Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! (Charlesbridge, 2010). This is my most asked-for picture book, and it was no longer available. I think folks will love the new spin on the sea turtle story, and it is informed by recent experiences I have had with sea turtle research.

The other picture book is Meet the Howlers (Charlesbridge, 2010), a book about howler monkeys, focusing on what howlers can "get away with" that kids can't! Jeff and I have been to Panama seven times, so we've spent a lot of time observing howler monkeys in rain forests. Really, you cannot ignore them. They are natural alarm clocks. Just before dawn, sometimes right outside your window, they begin to hoot and howl with their incredibly loud, booming voices. Ah, the peace and quiet of nature....

Cynsational Notes

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

Hunger Mountain Announces Winners of Katherine Paterson Prize

Montpelier, VT— The winner of the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing is Liz Cook from Roslindale, Massachusetts; the editor of Hunger Mountain: the VCFA Journal of the Arts announced today.

Liz Cook's short story for young adults, "Crazy Cat," has earned her a $1,000 prize and publication in Hunger Mountain, the national arts journal published at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

"We received 300 entries—and the talent and dedication apparent in those entries was overwhelming," says Miciah Bay Gault, managing editor of Hunger Mountain.

Katherine Paterson, the award-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia (Crowell, 1977), judged the contest. Along with a first place winner, she chose three honorable mentions: Susan Hill Long from Portland, Oregon; for her middle grade novel excerpt "Tornado;" Emily Jiang from Palo Alto, California; for her young adult novel excerpt "Paper Daughter;" and Tricia Springstubb from Cleveland Heights, Ohio; for her story for young children "No Mistake." Each honorable mention receives $100 and publication on Hunger Mountain online.

Miciah Bay Gault called Liz Cook last week to let her know she’d won the much-publicized Katherine Paterson Prize. "She couldn’t believe it," says Gault. "She was so excited to think that Katherine had read—and enjoyed—her writing."

Hunger Mountain
is a print and online journal of the arts showcasing fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, interviews, writing for children and young adults, and visual art.

Visit Hunger Mountain for more information about the Katherine Paterson Prize and three other writing prizes offered annually.

Vermont College of Fine Arts, which houses the editorial offices for Hunger Mountain, is the first college devoted entirely to low-residency, graduate fine arts programs, offering three MFA degrees in Writing, Writing for Children and Young Adults, and Visual Art.
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