Saturday, March 13, 2010

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Publisher Interview: Stephen Roxburgh of namelos

Interview by Jenny Desmond Walters for SCBWI Bologna 2010

As an expert in the publishing industry with more than thirty-five years of experience under your belt, having been the senior vice president and publisher at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and later the founder and president of Front Street (later acquired by Boyds Mills Press), you undoubtedly have an enormous wealth of knowledge about publishing books.

Your latest venture, namelos, seems to be breaking new ground. Can you tell us about your goals for namelos and what you hope to accomplish in this pioneering new venture?

My goals for namelos were to eliminate the parts of the business that I most dislike and focus on the parts that I most love, editing and talking about books. namelos allows us to focus on content and marketing.

What transpired to ultimately lead to you in this innovative new direction?

The last year or two has revealed that our industry is in crisis. I’ve long championed small independent publishing, but now, more than ever, that is not viable. Even large corporate publishing is struggling. Therefore, I decided to come up with a new model.

On the namelos website you do a very thorough job of explaining the services that namelos provides to writers and illustrators, as well as how you work with agents and publishers. What kinds of stories particularly interest you, and what would you love to see submitted to you this year?

Joy Neaves and I adore fiction, particularly novels with a distinctive voice. I don’t care if they are commercial or literary, middle grade or young adult, in prose or verse, just as long as they tell a compelling story in a distinctive voice. Fortunately, my colleague, Karen Klockner, feels about nonfiction the way Joy and I feel about fiction.

Over the last several years you’ve delivered extraordinary talks about the state of ebooks and digital publishing. In your captivating and insightful paper “Word Buckets in Meatspace” posted on Scribd, you describe books as “word buckets” stating that a digital “word bucket” can be just as effective as a printed and bound “word bucket.” Why do you think some publishers, and especially some authors, seem to be so reticent to embrace ebooks?

For publishers, it’s a misguided attempt to protect a deteriorating business model.

For authors, it’s generational.

For those of us who have devoted our lives to books, printed books are objets d’art. They are the highest form of culture. They confer status. They define us. We revere them. No machine can ever have that cachet.

But the iconic value of codex form books is accidental. Strangely enough, youngsters are more focused on the essential value of content than the accidental value of form.

I’m sure some will wince at that assertion, but it’s true. We may not agree with kids’ assessment of the content, but that’s a different issue.

However, those of us who cling to our print books run the risk of sounding like Archie Bunker insisting that he can’t eat ice cream with anything other than his special World’s Fair spoon.

The commercial music industry has been transformed in recent years by a large transition from physical product to digital product. Many music companies erroneously believed they were in the business of selling plastic discs as opposed to intellectual property. Do you think the publishing industry has anything to learn from the lessons of the music industry?

There is a great deal to be learned from the music industry, especially about committing to an obsolete form, the value (or lack thereof) of DRM, the need for portability and aggressive pricing. Other aspects of the music industry model, e.g. performance, sale of ancillary products, etc., aren’t as useful.

The Kindle and the Sony eReader have been around for a while. I’m curious about your thoughts on Apple’s iPad, which has the capability for full-color illustrations and motion video within an ebook. Do you think it is a game changer?

I think it’s the beginning of the beginning of an evolutionary leap for the picture book. When artists are free of the constraints of print formats, they will transform the genre.

Artists didn’t choose to deal with prescribed trim sizes, gutters, bleeds, page turns, 32-pages, four-color reproduction, text blocks to accommodate black plate changes, etc. Those are limitations imposed by press sizes, color-separation and reproduction issues, and economic mandates. Now, the shackles are off! I can’t wait to see what is forthcoming.

A keynote address you gave at an Assembly on Literature for Adolescents Workshop a few years ago was printed in NCTE’s The ALAN Review. In this remarkable speech titled, “The Art of the Young Adult Novel” [PDF file] you end the article with a call to action -- that educators, authors and critics “make an attempt to articulate criteria and establish critical standards by which to measure” young adult literature. What are some of the “criteria and standards” that you would hope to see assigned to meaningful literature for young adults?

People have been studying literature for millennia. The criteria and standards already exist, and they have nothing to do with the age of the audience. There is no qualitative difference between literature for young readers and literature for adults. The same criteria apply.

YA books have come into their own, reaching new heights in literature for children. This is certainly cause for rejoicing, but where does that leave picture books in today’s market? Do they also need to come complete with merchandising and film opportunities in order to get the attention of publishers today?

Everything needs to compete. I think that was Darwin’s point.

Publishers today are in competition with the merchandising and film industries. In fact, most of the large publishers are divisions of corporations that also own merchandising and film businesses, or at least have very strong connections to them.

As I suggested above, what we think of as picture books will evolve into something new. I have no worries about that.

Publishers? Well, they need to worry.

In the current climate of publishing books with rich merchandising and film options, do you think today’s authors need to come to the table with more marketing experience than in previous years?

That depends on what the author wants. Some want only to write what they write. They should not have to attend to anything more than that.

Most authors want to be published, i.e. they want their work made public. They can contribute a great deal to that end, but it requires effort on their part. The Internet has given everyone powerful tools for spreading whatever gospel we believe in.

If you want your work made public, then go spread the word.

Also in “The Art of the Young Adult Novel,” you wrote, “the novel in verse is uniquely appropriate for the young adult novel...” What are your thoughts about the increasing number of published YA books written in verse?

Some are better than others. There is no inherent value in writing in verse. But if the story demands it, then it is the best form. If not, it’s not.

Again, people need to not confuse form for content.

You also said, “We are myopic when it comes to literature in translation.” As a recent resident of Asia, I have seen this first hand. There are countless remarkable stories in far-away lands that have yet to be told or shared in the U.S.

Why do you think it is so difficult for countries to share work beyond their borders? Can you tell us about the work that namelos is doing with literature in translation?


Most books are informed by the culture and the language of the writer. Some literature transcends those, but not all and not often. Finding the works that do requires someone who is both multilingual and multicultural. Few people are truly both: so we end up using teams consisting of editors and translators.

It’s a hit-or-miss process and, in practice, there are more misses than hits because for a book to succeed commercially, it needs to find a truly multicultural audience, an audience with the sensibility and flexibility to accommodate the unfamiliarity of another culture.

Few people have that capacity. So, literature in translation is a tough sell.

At namelos, I hope to publish many books in translation. The costs of translation are substantial. Our business model allows for economies that may make it more viable than the old publishing model, but it’s still a great deal of work and very risky. We’ll see.

Right now, I am continuing to publish novels in partnership with the esteemed Dutch publisher, Lemniscaat. We’ve shared an imprint for over 15 years, and I expect we’ll keep on for a good long time.

You’re active with the Highlights Foundation and have several workshops on offer this year on the topic of Editing for Writers. Why is this an important outlet for you, and can you tell us about your experiences offering writers workshops?

I’m an editor. I like nothing more than working with an author on a book. The Highlights Foundation workshops enable me to work with authors without the complicating responsibility of being their publisher. The work is pure: they want to improve their writing, and I want to help them. In some ways, it is the best of all worlds. It’s intimate, fulfilling, and exciting.

Moreover, I have met writers in my workshops that I have gone on to edit independently and some that I am publishing. So, it’s proven a valuable experience on every level for all involved.

From the perspective of an experienced editor, what are some common mistakes that you see writers make?

That’s an impossible question to answer in this context. I will say that all the mistakes I see are common. If it’s not common, i.e. if it’s unique, it’s probably not a mistake.

What are some examples of successful ways children’s writers can improve their writing skills?

Forget that you’re writing “for children.” Forget about writing for publication. While your at it, forget about your family, your job, your friends, your pets, and yourself.

Live in the moment in what you are writing.

On the namelos publishing website, I was intrigued by the eBook Caper released just a few weeks ago where you are offering free digital copies of four new Front Street novels. Can you tell us more about this promotion, its purpose and your goals for this exciting endeavor?

Authors want readers. Publishers have known for a long time that the best way to promote a book is simply to give a reader a book.

The eBook promotion that Kent Brown and I dreamed up is simply another way to give books away. The goal is to introduce readers to these authors and to their books.

In the short term, we are forgoing sales in order to build a reader base for the authors. In the long term, those readers are likely to buy books by these authors.

The strategy has been time-tested and proven effective. Only the implementation is new.

I read several excellent interviews you’ve participated in with other writers -- one with Cynthia Leitich Smith and another with 49 Writers. Between those and your website, I confess it was difficult to come up with questions that you hadn’t already answered. What is one question you haven’t been asked about namelos but wish you would be, and how would you answer?

The question: Why are you breaking out of the system, i.e. the existing publishing model?

The answer: The system is broken. The model is obsolete.

It has become exclusive, and, consequently, it no longer serves the needs of the great majority of authors and artists, or of the reading public.

My final question is in reference to your bio on the namelos services website. I'm just wondering -- have you planted your raspberries yet, or is it too early in the season?

We’ll plant the raspberries in mid-May. I’m very excited!

Cynsational Notes

Stephen Roxburgh has been involved professionally with children's books and publishing for more than thirty-five years, first as an academic, then as senior vice president and publisher of Books for Young Readers at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and as president and publisher of Front Street, a small, independent press he founded in 1994.

In January 2009, he launched namelos, llc, a publishing house based on a new model for the next generation of authors, artists, and readers.

Jenny Desmond Walters is the founding regional advisor of the SCBWI Korea chapter. She is an experienced education professional with a love of learning and literature. She has worked in public television developing curriculum and promoting instructional programs, as well as worked extensively with educational publishers and learning materials companies. For the last several years, Jenny has lived in east Asia where she has become an avid writer and observer of life in Japan and Korea. Her articles have been published in national children's magazines and writing journals, and she has been a member of SCBWI for more than 10 years. Jenny currently resides in Seoul with her husband and three daughters, and she rarely runs out of interesting stories to write.

The SCBWI Bologna 2010 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations. To register, visit the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2010. Note: Special thanks to Angela Cerrito for coordinating this series with SCBWI Bologna and Cynsations.

Friday, March 12, 2010

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Agent Interview: Kendra Marcus on BookStop Literary Agency

Interview by Jenny Desmond Walters for SCBWI Bologna 2010

Kendra, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions in preparation for the upcoming 2010 SCBWI Bologna Symposium. I'm sure everyone is eager to read more about your agency, so let's jump right in to some questions.

You started the BookStop Literary Agency in 1984. What was the path that led you to become an agent, and also, what prompted you to open your own literary agency?

My agency morphed from a book-fair company I started when we lived in Mexico during the late 1970s to serve the numerous English speakers and learners who needed English language books to read and cement the English language skills they'd learned in school.

There were no children's bookstores in Mexico. BookStop, my company, set up book fairs in the various bilingual schools around the city and sold books directly to the kids in the schools.

I ordered the books I knew would succeed, given my elementary teaching experience and knowledge of kids. I had contact with literally thousands of kids each year and learned which books caught their interest.

My business was a success, but in 1983, we left Mexico and landed in a suburb of San Francisco. I decided not to continue the company I'd started because the same "book-less" conditions didn't exist in the U.S. Scholastic Book Fairs were well entrenched.

So, after two years of trying to volunteer in the schools where I was invited to stuff envelopes, my friends suggested to me that I go into real estate since I was so good at connecting people and houses.

Well, not real estate, I said, but I could be a literary agent connecting manuscripts and book publishers. I already knew many editors and publishers from my book-fair business, and I knew kids both from my teaching days and from my book-fair days.

I was pretty sure I knew a good book when I saw one since my book tastes had already been tested when I was buying for my book-fair business.

I started my agency the day I made the decision so many years ago, and I haven't regretted it for a minute. When I needed to learn about new books, I traveled to New York where I met with editors who told me what new books they were excited about.

It took a year to sell the first manuscript, and my business has grown significantly since then. Last year I took on an associate, Minju Chang, who works with me to get the best in children’s and young adult literature into the market.

Publishers Marketplace lists a nice collection of recent sales and forthcoming books from BookStop. What are some of the titles that you’re especially excited about this year?

You're asking which of my children I like the best this year, and that is a tough question.

Here’s a sampling of some “BookStop” books that will release in 2010:

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Philomel);

Mimi's Dada Catifesto by Shelley Jackson (Clarion);

The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic);

Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer (Zondervan).

In your opinion, what qualities make for a successful children's picture book?

Of course a good story with an unpredictable or simply delicious ending is paramount. Beyond that, a good picture book (or even novel, for that matter) needs well developed characters who drive a plot that makes me turn the pages.

In a picture book, I am eager to read a fresh approach to any of the myriad of familiar topics that kids can relate to–early concepts, daily life, siblings, family, friends, or even aliens. I love quirky and well-developed characters in any book, but especially in a picture book. We would never reject a great manuscript.

I also like to work with books that tell a socially important or interesting story, despite the fact that they may not experience great sales.

Kids love to learn about the world around them, and I feel there is a need for good nonfiction that teaches a subject in a non-didactic way.

Unfortunately, at the moment nonfiction is difficult to sell. Sometimes there is something magical and undefinable where the words and the pictures combine to create something above and beyond either the illustrations or the text on their own. This makes the odd equation of one plus one equals three!

Are you currently accepting submissions from writers and illustrators, and if so, do you have any specific tips or suggestions as to how they might best approach your agency?

Both my associate, Minju Chang, and I are actively seeking new talent. We work closely together so it doesn’t matter to whom you submit your work. We accept submissions from writers and illustrators for kids from age 0 to 16 years old.

Minju is especially skilled at working with authors who write at the upper end of that spectrum, and I can’t pass up a good picture book. We both work with illustrators.

You can find our submission guidelines at www.bookstopliterary.com. We prefer a query letter with a manuscript. If you send your manuscript through the mail, please make sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope or mailer so we can respond (and return your manuscript if you want it back). With email submissions, send first 10 pages pasted into body of email. Please do not send a query letter without the manuscript. We like to see what you write immediately.

Read our bios to get a sense of what we like. In short, we love humor and strong stories with strong and well-developed characters.

How long does it usually take for your agency to respond to a query and manuscript submission, and how many submissions do you typically receive in a given month?

We receive hundreds of submissions a month—anywhere from 200 to 300. Certain times of the year (holiday season), we're going to be slower, but we try to respond within four-to-six weeks. Usually it's two to three.

As an agency that represents both writers and illustrators, what are some of the different strategies you must employ to support these different types of clients throughout their career?

Every client has different needs and different skills.

With illustrators, we are constantly on the lookout for manuscripts that might fit their styles. We are pretty good at matching writers and illustrators, so when we hear an editor is looking for an illustrator, we try to find out about the text, to see if we might have an appropriate illustrator on board. Sometimes we'll send a manuscript in with illustrator suggestions to give an editor an idea of a style of illustration that might work.

With writers, we try to think about what sort of illustration goes with the manuscript and offer that as a suggestion to an editor who may be on the fence. With writers, we also have to keep our eye on what the next book might be because we understand that a publishing house is most interested if they can count on the fact that the author has more than one book in their mind.

In an article in Publishers Weekly, Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody books and also one of your clients, talked about how she shared a series of short “Judy Moody” vignettes with you and that you led her to the brilliant idea of combining them together into the first Judy Moody short novel.

Can you give us some examples of other recommendations you might make to clients after they submit a project to you?


It's difficult to say because this depends so much on the manuscript. We enjoy the editorial process, and if we think you’ve got a good strong character, we're more than happy to work with you to integrate that character into an equally strong plot.


Judy Moody was a great character to start with, and Megan found she could put her into almost any situation. It was the editor who led Megan to the short-novel format for Judy Moody.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Ryan started as a picture book. We kept trying different formats until someone suggested making it a novel.

Although Pam had never written a novel before, she took the suggestion and ran with it. It is clear the novel format gave her the space she needed to tell the story.

Sometimes our job is only a matter of figuring out what works in a story and what isn't quite working. Lack of tension? Episodic structure? Stagnant relationship? Undeveloped character. We know that the character needs to come first.

Some of your best known projects include Esperanza Rising, the Judy Moody book series, and the Froggy picture book series illustrations.

Can you tell us the story behind how you found, offered representation to, and then sold the work of one or more of these clients?


My clients typically find me. The three cases you mention above are representative. In one case, the author found me in a writer's handbook. In another, I was recommended by the author's editor, and in another, I was recommended by a friend of the author.

There is no single road to meeting the right agent. Sometimes authors hear of me from several different sources and tell me that, after the fourth person recommended us, they had to contact us. We are very open to reading manuscripts from first-time writers. We are as eager to start careers as we are to take on already established careers.

What aspects need to be considered about a book before an agent presents it to a publisher?

We want to be able to identify what makes this book stand out. What makes it different from comparable titles? Is there a large enough target audience to ensure the book’s success? And we need to really be its advocate.

We need to think about how we could pitch the book to a child and how that child might react to the book. How will the editor pitch this to their editorial and sales team? How will the publishers pitch this to kids? Does the subject matter fit into the curriculum (school sales and library sales are critical to a book's success). Is this a new take on a perennially favorite subject that can never go out of favor?

And, these are questions we also ask ourselves when we're reading each submission.

You served as a featured panelist at the Stanford Publishing Courses Writers Workshop in July 2009. What can you tell us about your experience there last year?

It was a very exciting couple of days where the participants learned everything from writing skills to publicity and how to actually manage social media. I was on a panel of agents talking about the ever-changing market in children’s books. Since the focus was not only children’s books, I was able to attend more general sessions and learn from well-known adult writers. Such conferences are invaluable for writers who want to get to know all phases of the business.

Unfortunately, the course has been suspended for the foreseeable future.

What kinds of things do you like to see new or unpublished authors or illustrators doing to promote themselves at the start of their careers?

They should be able to help with the publicity of their books. Today that includes being able to use the usual social networking tools – facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, etc. It is clear that the publishers are scaling back their publicity efforts and expecting authors to take up the slack. Authors who are really "out there" seem to enjoy better sales, and their publishers notice!

One of our clients, with a book about a dog, has become a one-woman marketing machine although she didn't start out that way. She’s worked relentlessly pursuing every single possible lead or tangent related to dogs, and it's paying off with good blurbs from a variety of organizations. We so appreciate her tenacity and hard work.

Seeing our clients work so hard makes us want to work that much harder to support their efforts.

It's important to remember that publicity doesn't always have to happen on a large scale. Sometimes it's about pursuing individual contacts one at a time. Another client has a natural gift for charming and talking to almost everyone she passes. She just has charisma, which makes her an extremely successful face-to-face promoter. She never "sells" to people; she's just who she is and people want to know about her. For example, after she just struck up a conversation with a couple of strangers on an airport shuttle, she learned that they later bought six copies of her book! I'll bet they spread the word even farther to their friends and family.

The underlying message is: use your talents and think outside of the box. If you're a video-editing pro, use that. If you're a great public speaker, put yourself out there in schools, stores, conferences, etc. Use your connections, too. If your kids are fabulous at building websites, ask them to do it for you. And also get their feedback on what appeals to kids.

Don't be afraid to be different. We’re always around to help you brainstorm.

Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and expertise. We're excited about hearing more from you in Bologna!

Cynsational Notes

Kendra Marcus started BookStop Literary Agency in 1984, and since then the agency has grown to be one of the most well known and well respected agencies for children's book writers and illustrators.

Kendra gravitates toward texts and illustrations for quirky and funny picture books. She is also interested in stories with Hispanic or Latino characters and unusual nonfiction and is always thrilled to find unforgettable and vivid voices or stories that will bring her to tears.

Jenny Desmond Walters is the founding regional advisor of the SCBWI Korea chapter. She is an experienced education professional with a love of learning and literature. She has worked in public television developing curriculum and promoting instructional programs, as well as worked extensively with educational publishers and learning materials companies. For the last several years, Jenny has lived in east Asia where she has become an avid writer and observer of life in Japan and Korea. Her articles have been published in national children's magazines and writing journals, and she has been a member of SCBWI for more than 10 years. Jenny currently resides in Seoul with her husband and three daughters, and she rarely runs out of interesting stories to write.

The SCBWI Bologna 2010 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations. To register, visit the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2010. Note: Special thanks to Angela Cerrito for coordinating this series with SCBWI Bologna and Cynsations.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Enter to win one of three newly released paperback copies of How Not To Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler (Delacorte, 2010)! From the promotional copy:

Maggie Dempsey is tired of moving all over the country. Her parents are second-generation hippies who uproot her every year or so to move to a new city.

When Maggie was younger, she thought it was fun and adventurous. Now that she's a teenager, she hates it. When she moved after her freshman year, she left behind good friends, a great school, and a real feeling of belonging. When she moved her sophomore year, she left behind a boyfriend, too.


Now that they've moved to Austin, she knows better. She's not going to make friends. She's not going to fit in. Anything to prevent her from liking this new place and them from liking her. Only...things don't go exactly as planned.


School Library Journal says, "This book has heart ... it has a sweet story of friendship at its core..."

Booklist cheers, "Balances laugh-out-loud, sardonic commentary with earnest reflections..."

In the latest online review, Stiletto Storytime raves: "Funny, honest and oh-so relatable, How Not To Be Popular is a must read book for teen girls or for that special someone who may ever so barely remember what it’s like to be one."

And here's a peek at the author herself!

To enter the giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "How Not To Be Popular" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message me with the title in the header or comment on this round-up; I'll write you for contact information, if you win).

One copy will be reserved for a teacher/librarian/university professor of youth literature (please indicate affiliation in the body of your entry message); the other two will go to any Cynsations readers.

Deadline: midnight CST March 31. Note: U.S. entries only. See also a Cynsations interview with Jennifer on How Not To Be Popular. Peek: "...Maggie is definitely bolder, more sophisticated, and more impulsive than I am (now and as a teen). But she's also less self aware. Because of her nomadic lifestyle, she's always "presenting" herself to others. And if you're always investigating new surroundings, there's little time for self-exploration." See also Jennifer at Frisco Reads on Frisco (TX)-ISD TV.

Happy Birthday, Mr. V

This week YA author Varian Johnson celebrates his birthday and the release of Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2010).

Joshua Wynn is a preacher’s son and a “good boy” who always does the right thing. Until Maddie comes back to town. Maddie is the daughter of the former associate pastor of Joshua’s church, and his childhood crush. Now Maddie is all grown up, gorgeous—and troubled. She wears provocative clothes to church, cusses, drinks, and fools around with older men. Joshua’s ears burn just listening to the things she did to get kicked out of boarding school, and her own home.

As time goes on, Josh goes against his parents and his own better instincts to keep Maddie from completely capsizing. Along the way, he begins to question his own rigid understanding of God and whether, as his mother says, a girl like Maddie is beyond redemption. Maddie leads Josh further astray than any girl ever has . . . but is there a way to reconcile his love for her and his love for his life in the church?

Varian Johnson by Melodye Shore from In the Author's Tent. Peek: "I certainly don't think the ethnicity of the characters is important in this story—the characters are Southern and religious, and that’s what I was most intent on getting across. Also, I didn't want to manufacture a scene where the characters were commenting on their 'blackness'—that just seemed silly."

Varian Johnson on Saving Maddie Playlist and a Giveaway from Ari at Color Online. Peek: "Like Joshua and Maddie's relationship, my playlist is a mix of seduction and despair, love and loss." Note: Ari also is giving away three ARCs; deadline March 17.

10 Questions for Varian Johnson and a Giveaway from Book Nut. Peek: "I try really hard to find a balance between opinions. As an author, I don't feel it's my place to dictate want a reader should think or believe. Rather, I want to make it hard for the reader; I want him or her to struggle with what’s going on in the novel, to try to see all sides of an argument." Note: Book Nut is giving away three copies of the book; deadline March 21.

Varian Johnson on Writing Saving Maddie from Gwenda Bond at Shaken & Stirred. Peek: "By the time I was accepted, I had completed a decent draft of the novel, and was ready to wow all of the students and instructors with my Literary Genius."

Joint release party - YA authors Varian Johnson and April Lurie will be featured in a joint book signing at 2 p.m. March 27 at BookPeople in Austin. Varian will be signing Saving Maddie, and April will be signing The Less-Dead (both Delacorte, 2010).

More News & Giveaways

Congratulations to the winners and honorees of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (2010), sponsored by the Asian/Pacific Librarians Association. The winning picture book was Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant (Shen's, 2009), and the honorable mention was Tan to Tamarind by Malathi Michelle Iyengar, illustrated by Jamel Akib (Children's Book Press, 2009). The youth literature winner was Everything Asian by Sung Woo (Thomas Dunne, 2009), and the honorable mention was Tofu Quilt by Ching Yeung Russell (Lee & Low, 2009). See more information on these books and the award program.

On Referrals from Waxman Literary Agency. Peek: "This is not a referral: An agent's client who you know on Twitter/blogs/writer’s group, but who has not offered to put you in touch with his or her agent." Source: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent.

Young adult lit comes of age: Authors may gear their novels toward the junior and senior high crowd, but adults are snapping up the books, often about misfit teens or fantasy worlds. By Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times. Peek: "'Even as the recession has dipped publishing in general, young adult has held strong,'" said David Levithan, editorial director and vice president of Scholastic..."

Teenage fiction's death wishes: With novels about leukemia, car crashes and the afterlife topping young adult reading lists, why are teenagers so fascinated by tales of death and dying? by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Source: April Henry.

Authoress With a Heart of Gold: An Interview with Author Cecil Castellucci by Jill Dearman from Barnes & Noble. Peek: "I did indeed study acting and I indie rocked along with the best of them! Basically I am in love with stories. So for me, singing, acting, moving about and flailing my arms (i.e., dancing), comedy, etc. is all about telling stories."

An Interview with Senior Editor Kate Harrison of Dial Books by Nancy Sondel from the Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop. Peek: "My notes are always only meant to be a jumping off point, to make an author think about why something may not be working. The best revisers take those notes and come up with their own solutions." Note: see more on the workshop below!

Outlining No Fun? Try Storysaurus! by Jamie Harrington from Totally the Bomb. Peek: "...he used the storysaurus. He was a dinosaur with spikes on his back. Each spike represented a chapter, and his whole body represented the story’s main plot." Check out the diagram! See also storysaurus apparel. Source: E. Kristin Anderson.

Michael Pietsch, the executive vice president and a publisher at Little, Brown and Company, Outlines Publishing Future by Jacqueline Small from The Phoenix ("the independent campus newspaper of Swarthmore College since 1881"). Peek: "...because physical books have a great deal of sentimental value, and because digitalization does not improve the reading experience, he expects that they will continue to coexist with electronic books “for a long period in the future." Source: Laura Sibson.

Attention: Writers World Wide: "Vermont College of Fine Arts is authorized under federal law to enroll non-immigrant alien students." The VCFA MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults now welcomes applications from international students. See more information. Note: students, alumni, and other friends of the school are encouraged to pass on this great news! Please include the quoted material--per law.

A Dozen YA Novels with Asian Guy Protagonists: compiled by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "I got great suggestions, but didn't include any middle-grade titles, those published before 2007, or novels in which the Asian guy was a sidekick, romantic interest, or one of several protagonists." Read a Cynsations interview with Mitali.

Submitting a Partial by Jessica from BookEnds, LLC. - A Literary Agency. Peek: "Since most agents are reading on ereaders these days I find it helpful, and I do know other agents agree with me, to have a copy of the cover letter submitted with the attached partial."

Having What It Takes by Eric from Pimp My Novel. Peek: "You can be the most talented writer in the world and still utterly fail as a professional author if you don't maintain a writing schedule and treat your writing like a business as well as an art form." Source: Elizabeth Scott.

Science Fiction and the Frame of Technology by Paul Woodlin. Discusses the six basic representations of technology. Peek: "While SF should explore the potential dangers of technology, it should be very careful, more careful than many writers (especially script writers) are, to not cross the line into being anti-science. It is scientific wonder that is at the heart of SF." See also Science Fiction and Time Frames and Science Fiction and Frames of Mind: Space.

"New-Fashioned" Fantasy: What Does It Look Like? by Kate Coombs from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "What does today's fantasy look like, and how is it different from the work of decades past? I put my head together with the Inkies, and here are some of the things we came up with..."

Writing for Ourselves by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I needed to write something different. Something that the book-loving ten-year-old girl inside of me would love. Would it be published? I probably hoped so, but mostly, I just wanted to have fun writing a book without any thoughts or worries of the outcome." Note: Don't miss Lisa's super-cute cupcake note cards giveaway, especially for teachers and librarians. Deadline: March 13. Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Interview: Publisher Renee Ting of Shen's Books from Multiculturalism Rocks! Peek: "...picture books speak to a younger audience, and I believe that the sooner kids get to see and read about other cultures, the better. Their perception of race and culture is shaped early, and hopefully these picture books can influence that."

Beware! Burnout Ahead by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Having a healthy drive is good, but letting yourself be driven-–by others or your own inner critic–-will eventually ruin the joy you originally brought to your writing."

What In the World is Steampunk After All? from The Book Smuggler. Peek: "Yes, there are some basics with which most people agree: usually steam-power is still used, and is set mostly in a Victorian-like world. This is definitely the 'Steam' part. The 'Punk' part or the other parts that makes it gravitate towards..."

Ten Rules for Query Letters by Maggie Stiefvater from Words on Words. Peek: "Agents are people too. More importantly, they are not just any people, they are readers. So guess what -- the thing that makes you pick up a book is what makes an agent pick up a book. So therefore..." Read a Cynsations interview with Maggie.

Carolrhoda Lab: new imprint "dedicated to distinctive, provocative, boundary-pushing fiction for teens and their sympathizers." See media release (PDF). Read a Cynsations interview with Andrew.

Coffee Break Tuesday with Sara Zarr from Debbi Michiko Florence. Peek: "Right now I'm in the process of writing what will be my fourth published book, and I think I'm finally starting to relax a little and enjoy writing the way I did before I was published." Read a Cynsations interview with Sara.

Win a Visit with Katherine Paterson, the new National Ambassador of Young People's Literature from The Library of Congress. Peek: "Tell us what kind of event you would develop if Katherine Paterson were to visit. Also, tell us how you would promote the event and to whom. Describe the event and its promotion in detail in no more than 250 words." Deadline: midnight EST; see details.

Donate Books to Bombed-Out Schools in Pakistan: author Clare Dunkle writes that her friend, Andy Sheehan, who is serving in the Air Force, is coordinating a book-drive initiative. In a forwarded letter, Andy writes, "The schools need books at all grade levels K-12. Used books are absolutely acceptable. All of the schools I have seen are teaching English at virtually all grade levels. Please do not send religious books. The point of the effort is literacy, not religious education. Our organization will funnel these books into the Dir District and distribute them among the schools." The address is: Civil Affairs Element; Unit 62200 Box 23; APO, AE 09812.

Author Interview: Jessica Leader from The Bookologist. Peek: "Friendship, popularity, your identity in school—these issues are just as interesting to me now as they were when I was younger, and that’s what I want to write about." Features a bookmark, lip gloss, bangle bracelet giveaway. Deadline: March 12.

7 Reasons Why Writers Need To Start Using Video For Book Promotion by Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn. Peek: "Google is developing voice recognition and automatic captioning, so that soon videos will be easily searchable through text. This means your ranking for a particular topic could be fantastic if your videos are on a theme."

Interview with Editorial Director Stacy Whitman of Tu Books/Lee & Low by Ellen Oh from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "Our mission remains the same—to acquire great fantasy and SF titles for children and young adults that feature diverse characters and settings. The biggest change is that we’ll have more resources to accomplish our mission."

Denouement AKA Moment of Reckoning by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog - Writer Talk. Peek: "Everything should have been leading the reader to this moment." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Self-Published E-books? The horror! The horror! by Michael Stearns from Upstart Crow. Peek: "I’ve borne witness to the fruits of self-publication, and I can testify to you all that it is no threat to books from publishers. It’s the opposite in fact, and some kind of spectacular ugly."

What's Fresh with Elizabeth Scott's The Unwritten Rule by Kelly Parra from YA Fresh. Peek: "The Unwritten Rule actually came about because my editor at Simon Pulse, Jennifer Klonsky, and I were talking about friendships and high school and the things you just instinctively knew you could never ever do then, like be interested in a friend's boyfriend and I said, "Yeah, it's like the unwritten rule," and bam! There was the story."

How Quickly Will the World Degrade by P.J. Hoover from The Spectacle. Peek: "As for the time when the book is set, what particularly works for me is what I estimate to be the accuracy in how far the world has declined in this amount of time." Read an interview with P.J. and Jessica Lee Anderson.

Book Giveaway and Guest Teaching Author Interview with Johanna Hurwitz by Carmela Martino from Teaching Authors. Giveaway deadline: March 17. Peek: "as an author one never knows when a book we’ve written or a talk we’ve given has influenced someone. Even after a book has gone out of print, it is still available in libraries and via on-line bookstores. Even after a talk is given, our words resonate with our listeners."

Congratulations to Jessica Rothenberg on her six-figure pre-empt deal with Dutton for her debut novel, The Catastrophic History of You and Me! Peek: "Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary + Media closed the deal, which is for two books, just 24 hours after submitting the proposal. In the book, a 15-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart must pass through five stages of grief before she can move on to the afterlife...and restore her faith in love." Note: last fall, Jessica was one of my advisees in her first semester at the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Vermont College of Fine Arts!

Book tour? More like a safari With publisher publicity departments backing away from traditional author tours, writers are left to their own devices (and strangers' couches). By Carolyn Kellogg from the LA Times. Peek: "As the business of publishing changes, book tours increasingly look like bad risks. 'In 99.9% of cases,' says Peter Miller, director of publicity at Bloomsbury USA, 'you can't justify the costs through regular book sales.'" Source: April Henry.

Congratulations to author Laura Bowers on the sale of her second book, Nine Rules for Flirting, to Beth Potter at FSG! Note: agented by Rosemary Stimola. Read the whole scoop and leave your congratulations! Read a Cynsations interview with Laura.

Five Reasons Writers Get Stuck by Martha Alderson from Plot Whisperer for Readers and Writers. Peek: "The rhythm of story telling is in all of us right now, especially for those of us who were read to as youngsters and continue to read fiction today." Source: Anna Staniszewski.

New Critique Service from The Texas Sweethearts, Editor Critique & Sweetheart New Release

New Critique Service from the Texas Sweethearts. Peek: "...strive to be honest in critiques above all else. We believe within each manuscript there is a treasure chest, and we are committed to doing what we can to help find the key to unlock the treasure inside." Note: the Texas Sweethearts are authors Jo Whittemore, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover, and Jessica Lee Anderson.

Editor Critique: editor "Madeline Smoot of Blooming Tree Press AKA The Buried Editor at Buried in the Slush Pile, has kindly offered up a critique. She will critique a query letter and ten pages for one lucky winner." To enter, follow the Texas Sweethearts blog and comment on this post. Deadline: March 28. Note: in the photo above, Madeline visits with Austin writer Erin Edwards.

Congratulations to Tricia on her Five-Star Gold Award for The Navel of the World (CBAY, 2009) from Teens Read Too! Peek: "The world that was created – Lemuria – was so cool. What was even better about Lemuria was that it felt real. You could hear the footsteps on the path and the bell jingling when the characters walked into a shop."

Release party - Jo Whittemore will celebrate Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin Mix, 2010) at 1 p.m. March 14 at BookPeople in Austin.

Sweetheart Jo Whittmore by P.J. Hoover - Interview & Giveaway from Roots in Myth. Peek: "I actually worked on my first school paper when I was in fifth grade. We had a fantastically successful one-issue run, and at the time, I wasn’t a reporter, I was the cartoonist." To enter to win a copy of the book, leave a comment before the end of the day on March 14.



See also Shrinking Violet Ideas in Action: The Texas Sweethearts from Shrinking Violet Promotions: Marketing for Introverts. Peek: "...your individual fanbase multiplies when you’re in a group. Yes, there will be overlap with common friends and organizations, but there will also be plenty of social circles that intersect at just one writer (picture a Venn diagram)."

The Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop

Eighth Annual Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop will be Aug. 20 to Aug. 22 at Pajaro Dunes' private beachfront facility near Santa Cruz, California. Intensive, team-taught seminar for 30 savvy and/or published writers of character-driven youth novels, "active observers," and teen readers and writers.

Faculty includes Kate Harrison, senior editor, Dial Books/Penguin; Ted Malawer (agent, Upstart Crow Literary); and author-consultant Laura Backes, publisher of Children’s Book Insider. See an interview with Kate.

Teen enrollees will be led by YA author Liz Gallagher (author interview).

The weekend theme is "A Novelist’s Toolkit: Architecture, Archetypes, and Arcs." Focus on craft as a marketing tool; 90 percent hands-on. Open critique clinics AKA master classes, are enhanced by interactive pre-workshop assignments.

Deadline: for the most critique options and lowest fees, apply by April 10 or ASAP. (Limited enrollment may be open through July.) More info on teen and adult programs: contact Director Nancy Sondel: www.childrenswritersworkshop.com.

Cynsational Screening Room

Watch a trailer for new release Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong (HarperCollins). See also chapter one.



Check out the book trailer for new release Split by Swati Avasthi (Knopf, 2010). Note: trailer by John Yopp. Music by Kevin MacLeod. See agent Rosemary Stimola's perspective on Split and more on what kinds of manuscripts she represents by Leah Cypress from the Class of 2k10.



Check out the book trailer for Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl (Knopf, 2010).



Congratulations to debut author Jandy Nelson on the release of The Sky Is Everywhere (Dial, 2010), which is already getting a lot of critical buzz. The novel is is a Junior Library Guild Selection and #3 on the Indie Next List for spring 2010! See also Jandy Nelson The Sky Is Everywhere by Louis Peitzman from SF Gate, home of the San Francisco Chronicle.



In the video below, meet Lauren Kate, author of Fallen (Delacorte, 2009). Read a Cynsations interview with Lauren.



Want to write "The Best Book Ever"? You're not the only one. Source: agent Nathan Bransford via editor Molly O'Neil.



Back by popular demand: the Origami Yoda video! Note: teachers read the book aloud, and try this with your class! Read the story behind the story of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Amulet, 2010) from Tom Angleberger.



Austin Scene

Newly announced Austin SCBWI ARA Carmen Oliver with fellow member Jerri Romine.

Austin SCBWI RA Debbie Gonzales with founding RA Meredith Davis.

YA author Brian Yansky.

Author Julie Lake.

Austin 2010 debut author Lisa Railsback! Look for Noonie's Masterpiece, illustrated by Sarajo Frieden (Chronicle)!

More Personally

In Conversation with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Bethany Hegedus from Hunger Mountain. Topics include debuting on the New York Times list, Multiculturalism 3.0, future books, the influence of Bram Stokers' Dracula (1897) and girl heroes. Peek: "I’d be surprised if [Sherman] Alexie sat down to write [The Absolutely True Diary of a] Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007) with any curriculum connections in mind. I suspect folks who asked when I’d write a Trail of Tears novel never thought I'd grow into a Gothic fantasist."

New Vampires in Town from Early Word: The Publisher / Librarian Connection. Highlights recent New York Times best-sellers Eternal (Candlewick), Heather Brewer's Vladimir Tod series (Dutton), and Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Delacorte). Note: Carrie's book features zombies, not vampires, and Eternal features shapeshifters and angels in addition to vampires.

Book Review: Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith by Stacy & Shannan from Girls in the Stacks. Peek: "Yes, this book is a love story, but it is so much more. It is a story of choices, good versus evil, redemption and grace. The ending is poetic, heartfelt and definitely enduring." See also a video interview with Becca Fitzpatrick and an audio interview with Carrie Jones from Girls in the Stacks.

Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith by Stacy & Shannan from Girls in the Stacks. Peek: "Like Miranda, as a teen, I loved to read fantasy, was sometimes overshadowed by my best friend, and longed for the courage to try out for the school play. I also lived for a while in both Dallas (her hometown) and Chicago (where much of Eternal takes place)."

Attention Event Planners: I'm book solid for the spring 2010 semester, but I still have some availability for the fall. Contract Jean Dayton at Dayton Bookings with queries.

It delighted me to apply an Austin cityscape to my LiveJournal.

Even More Personally

It's been an exciting couple of weeks as Eternal debuted at #5 on the New York Times paperback list and, I learned yesterday, will stay on for another week at #8! Thanks again to all for your continued enthusiasm and support!

I'm especially excited about the second list because it also includes The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum). Kathi was my own children's writing teacher, and now we're friends and colleagues at the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Regular Cynsations readers may recall that we hosted a joint event in celebration of these books last spring at BookPeople in Austin.

These flowers were sent by family.

And these were presented to me by Austin SCBWI ARA Carmen Oliver at our monthly meeting last weekend at BookPeople.

Here's more on The Underneath and some writing advice from Kathi, courtesy of Simon & Schuster:



Cynsational Giveaways
In celebration of the release of Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Hyperion, 2010), enter to win a Hex Hall T-shirt (size small, medium, or large)! To enter, just email me, message me or comment me with "Hex Hall" in the subject line. Deadline: March 31. Note: U.S. entries only. Read a Cynsations interview with Rachel.

The winners of Token of Darkness by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Delacorte, 2010) were Amenda in Texas, Pamela in Georgia, Naseoul in Texas, Tashia in Michigan, and Jami in Florida. Read a guest post by Amelia on world building.

Cynsational Events

Author Dianna Hutts Aston will be signing her picture books from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 12 at Viva! Bookstore at Viva Galleria (8407 Broadway) in San Antonio. Her titles include The Moon Over Star, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, 2008).
Read a Cynsations interview with Dianna and illustrator Sylvia Long.

Release party - author Jo Whittemore will celebrate Front Page Face-Off (Aladdin Mix, 2010) at 1 p.m. March 14 at BookPeople in Austin.

Joint release party - YA authors Varian Johnson and April Lurie will be featured in a joint book signing at 2 p.m. March 27 at BookPeople in Austin. Varian will be signing Saving Maddie, and April will be signing The Less-Dead (both Delacorte, 2010). Read a Cynsations interview with April.

"Lighting the Way to Literacy:" 2010 conference of the Illinois Reading Council March 18 to March 20 in Springfield. Look for me there! Note: additional featured authors include Joan Bauer, Andrew Clements, Will Hobbs, Eric A. Kimmel, Gail Carson Levine, Pam Munoz Ryan, Sarah Weeks, and David Wiesner. See program (PDF).

Author Dianna Hutts Aston will be signing her picture books at 11:30 March 20 at BookPeople in Austin. Her titles include The Moon Over Star, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, 2008).
Read a Cynsations interview with Dianna and illustrator Sylvia Long.

Oklahoma SCBWI Spring Conference will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 27 at Embassy Suites Hotel (1815 S. Meridian) in Oklahoma City. Faculty includes: editor Amy Lennex, Sleeping Bear Press; editor Greg Ferguson, Egmont USA; associate editor Kate Fletcher, Candlewick; Stephen Fraser, Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency; and senior designer (art director) Kerry Martin, Clarion. See registration form, information on writers' and illustrators' critiques, and more. Note: registration closes March 23.

The Greater Houston Teen Book Convention is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 at Alief Taylor High School, and admission is free! Speakers include keynoter Sharon Draper and Cynthia Leitich Smith.

The Texas Library Association Annual Conference will be April 14 to April 17 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Note: I'll be speaking from 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. on the "A Conversation Between Books and Technology" panel with Jay Asher, Corey Doctorow, Maureen Johnson, and Jude Watson. Then I'll sign books from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. See a schedule of Austin authors at TLA.

Release party - author Chris Barton will celebrate Shark v. Train, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Little Brown, 2010) at 1 p.m. April 24 at BookPeople in Austin. Read a Cynsations interview with Chris.


Moments of Change: the New England SCBWI Conference will take place May 14 to May 16 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. See conference schedule, workshop descriptions, manuscript critique guidelines, and special conference offerings. See faculty bios. Note: I'm honored to be participating as a keynote speaker!

"The Misadventures of a Manuscript: How to Write a Viable Story, with Literary Agent Scott Treimel of S©ott Treimel NY," hosted by the Writers' League of Texas, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 14 at First Presbyterian Church (5300 Main Street) in Houston. Note: "Top children's literary agent S©ott Treimel NY receives hundreds of queries and submissions each month, and he asks to see partial manuscripts of only 5 percent of those. In this workshop, you'll learn directly from him the answer the question: What's wrong with the other 95 percent? $99 members / $169 nonmembers." Register here.

"Kid Lit: How to Break in to the Children's Market, with Literary Agent Scott Treimel of S©ott Treimel NY, hosted by the Writers' League of Texas, is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 15 in Austin. Note: "In this workshop, renowned children's agent Scott Treimel will cover the ins and outs of the children's and young adult publishing world. $99 members / $169 nonmembers." Register here.

Master Class/Writing Salon Event Details from Austin SCBWI. Peek: A Master Class/Writing Salon for the advanced writer, led by author Carol Lynch Williams, will be held May 15 at the Ranch House at Teravista in Round Rock, Texas. The cost is $80. Read a Cynsations interview with Carol.

2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop is scheduled for June 14 to June 18 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Peek: "Full-day participants spend their mornings in small workshops led by award-winning faculty. Both full- and half-day participants enjoy afternoon plenary sessions by national children's book editors and an agent, as well as breakout sessions by our workshop faculty and guest presenters. The keynote address and book signing are open to all conference attendees." See faculty.
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