Friday, July 30, 2010

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith is Now Available in Poland

I'm pleased to announce that Eternal is now available in Poland.

Cynsational News & Giveaways

On Learning How to Write by Lisa Schroeder from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I've been writing seriously for almost ten years, and during that time, I've often wished I could pursue a formal education in creative writing. But it's not something I've been able to do for a lot of different reasons. So, I've had to learn the old fashioned way." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Five Rules for Writing YA by Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary from Chuck Sambuchino from Guide to Literary Agent's Editor's Blog. Peek: "The YA field welcomes innovators. What will your contribution be? Think fresh."

Scholastic Editor Nick Eliopulos: An Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "You can tell a lot in 30 pages. If there’s a quality in the writing that makes me want to engage—even if the writing isn’t quite where it needs to be, but I can envision helping you get it there—then I keep reading."

Cynsational Blogger/Vlogger Tip: If you would like to tape or report on a speech in a way that goes beyond fair use, ask permission first, preferably in advance.

Serious about Series by Rose Cooper from From The Mixed-up Files of Middle Grade Authors. Peek: "So, what makes readers love a book so much they want to read the entire series?"

ReaderKidZ: One Child, One Book, One Page at a Time: a new resource site from Debbie Gonzales, Dianne White, Nancy Bo Flood, Stephanie Greene. Peek: "We’ve come together to establish a resource for teachers, parents and librarians who work with readers in grades K-5. On a regularly-updated basis, ReaderkidZ will provide new and exciting downloadable tools we hope you’ll use in promoting books to these up-and-coming readers." Don't miss Author-in-Residence, Beyond Borders, Book Room, and Tool Box.

The Whole Megillah: The Writer's Resource for Jewish-themed Children's Books: from Barbara Krasner "to provide writers of Jewish-themed content for young readers a helpful resource. This blog will contain entries about: Jewish history; book reviews; interviews with and guest blogs by authors, editors, agents, and librarians; event news; research information, e.g., Jewish museums and archives."

Don't Toss Your Days to the Wind by Janice Shefelman from Inside Shefelman Books. Peek: "Once, in Venice, I lost my journal, the nightmare of any writer. I left it on a table in a restaurant where Tom and I had lunch. When we returned it was gone. Why would anyone steal a journal?" Read a Cynthia guest post on Researching Anna Maria's Gift (Random House, 2010) by Janice.

On Creating Character Through Memory by Cheryl Renee Herbsman. Peek: "It's almost impossible to think of the place or its objects without thinking also of how and when they were used or special memories you associate with them. So when you build a home for your characters, the same must be true." Read a Cynsations interview with Cheryl.

The Season of Windblown Hair — Or, the Zeitgeist of Book Covers by Elizabeth Bluemle from PW: SHelf Talker. Peek: "It’s probably just something in the zeitgeist that brings a whole season of, say, close-ups of hands or stripey socks and tennis shoes or flowers illuminated as if shot on a lightbox. Or close-ups of girls’ faces, or face parts, or the backs of teenagers’ heads, or blue-jeaned hips. Or, for that matter, entire herds of dustcovers with photos of dramatically lit girls framed by dark foliage or fabric." Read a guest post Promotional Bookmarks and Postcards by Elizabeth.

When Facts Change: Updating Nonfiction by Loreen Leedy from I.N.K.: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: "When you least expect it, carefully researched details or large chunks of a book can be rendered obsolete overnight."

Picture Book or Short Story? by Mary Kole from Peek: "The other ruler I use in my head is the fact that a picture book is about a $50,000 investment for a publisher. An agent told me this figure once and it has always stuck with me. What goes into this investment?" See also Shooting Glances. Read a Cynsations interview with Mary.

Someone's Filling My Shoes: An Interview with the New CWIM Editor Chuck Sambuchino by Alice Pope from Alice Pope's SCBWI Blog. Note: don't miss information on querying to write articles and submitting materials to be considered as a featured debut author.

Support a Kidlitosphere Blogger's Race for the Cure: "On Oct. 6, 2009, Andrea Ross of was diagnosed with breast cancer. On Oct. 3, 2010, she will run for the cure. If you'd like to support her efforts to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, please click here to sponsor Andrea, and spread the word about this event!"

Pie-of-the-Month Club: Kimberley Griffiths Little by Heather Vogel Frederick from Set Sail for Adventure. Peek: "It took a period of about six years from the time I wrote the first draft until it sold – even though I had many editors tasting and re-tasting and telling me how close it was! Just a little more plot, another pinch of character, a few more pecans—I mean scenes." Note: includes recipe for Melt-In-Your-Mouth Apple Pie. Read a Cynsations interview with Kimberley.

Beats by Jennifer Hubbard from writerjenn. Peek: "Here are three of the ways in which I deliberately manipulate prose rhythm (though not always consciously--I usually find myself fixing the rhythm of a sentence "by ear")."

A Writer's Guide to Leaving an Agent by Georgia McBride from Shelli at Market My Words. Peek: "...if your agent is unresponsive, shows a complete lack of regard for or interest in your work, you should consider looking for alternate representation. Another indication is an agent who is condescending or disrespectful to you or writers in general. But don’t lose your cool."

Pippin Properties has renovated and relaunched its website. See also the new agency blog, The Pippin Insider.

Book Giveaway and Guest Teaching Author Interview with Karen Romano Young by Carmela Martino from Teaching Authors. Peek: "We all think we’re alone as writers, and we’re all afraid of failure. One solution is to recognize that your work is going to come out differently; another is to accept that you’ll go through a process as a writer in which you continually evaluate your work, finding the strengths and weaknesses and, draft by draft, working to improve them." Don't miss the Doodlebug video tutorial (at the link) or the giveaway of Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles (Feiwel & Friends, 2010). Deadline: 11 p.m.CST Aug. 4.

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski (Delacorte, 2010). Read a Cynsations guest post by Sarah about her twitter promotion for the novel.

A Video Interview with Author Lisa McMann from Ed Spicer at Spicy Reads. Read an interview with Lisa.

More Personally

Top Ten Books Recommended for Elementary School, Top Ten Books Recommended for Middle School, and Top Ten Books Recommended for High School by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "...stories Native writers create about Native people and places. The books I list here include fiction, historical fiction, traditional story, and poetry." Note: I'm honored to see three of my books, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000), Indian Shoes, illustrated by Jim Madsen (HarperCollins, 2002), and Rain Is Not My Indian Name on the lists. See my teacher guides.

Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010) made the Literature category of the Our Angels are Different page on Television Tropes & Idioms. Note: It's a pop-culture coup!

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith: a review by Karin from Edifying and Edgy. Peek: "The relationship between Quincie and Kieren is touching and so deep that..."

For those who missed them, here are my two recent guest posts on other blogs in the kidlitsophere:

Guest Dispatches: Cynthia Leitich Smith/Austin, Texas: my musings on my city and how it inspires my writing from Janni Lee Simner at Desert Dispatches. Peek: "Austin is the kind of place that’s almost impossible to leave—a capital city, a college town, high tech, overeducated, joyfully diverse. Crunchy, funky, corporate and entrepreneurial. Hippy, urban cowboy and urban cool."

Writers Against Racism: Cynthia Leitich Smith: my musings on the impact that racism had on me as a young person, how it's affected my professional writing, and the ways literature can combat the effects of racism and promote tolerance from Amy Bowllan at Bowllan's Blog via School Library Journal. Peek: "Speculative fiction has long illuminated real-world societal dynamics. For some kids, it’s in this fantastical context that the pain of injustice and importance of cross-cultural respect will finally click."

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart (Delacorte, 2010). Just email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "How to Survive Middle School" 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.

Deadline: midnight CST July 31. Note: U.S. entries only.

Cynsational Events

The Austin SCBWI Diversity in Kid Lit Panel Discussion will feature author-illustrator Don Tate, illustrator Mike Benny, author Varian Johnson, author Lila Guzman, author/librarian Jeanette Larson and take place at 11 a.m. Aug. 14 at at BookPeople in Austin.

Author Pamela Ellen Ferguson will be presenting and signing Sunshine Picklelime, illustrated by Christian Slade (Random House, 2010) at 2 p.m. Aug. 15 at BookPeople in Austin.

The launch party for Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Gahan Wilson (Roaring Brook, Aug. 2010) will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin.

Southwest Texas SCBWI Fall Editor Day will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18 at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Featured speakers are Sarah Shumway, HarperCollins editor; Julie Ham, Charlesbridge associate editor, and Carmen Tafolla, award-winning author. See more information.

The Five Tribes Story Conference and Festival will be Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Peek: "According to one of the conference planners, Tim Tingle, the event will “focus on the stories of the Five Tribes of Oklahoma, with a great opening line-up of tellers, writers, and academic thinkers in the field."

Picture Perfect! A Spit-Polish Workshop at St. Edwards University, featuring famed Lisa Wheeler as Keynote Speaker is scheduled for Oct. 9 and sponsored by Austin SCBWI. Faculty also will include Sarah Sullivan, Stephanie Greene, Don Tate, and Laura Jennings. See more information (PDF).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guest Post: L.D. Harkrader on The Thin Line Between Reality and Fantasy

By L.D. Harkrader

Over the past thirteen years, I’ve published eighteen books—some fiction, some nonfiction, three ghostwritten, and one picture book. But my latest book, Nocture (Mirrorstone, 2010), is a first for me.

Nocture is a young adult novel, which is new territory for a writer who’s been solidly entrenched in middle grade for most of her writing career. (In school visits, I tell kids that although I look like a forty-something year old woman on the outside, on the inside, I’m still twelve years old—and sometimes I’m a twelve-year-old boy. They think I’m joking. I’m not.)

It’s also the first time I’ve intentionally written a fantasy. Nocture is the story of Flanders Lane, a fifteen-year-old foundling who must use her long-hidden magical gifts to save her uncle and her Wicker Street neighbors when a vampire bent on revenge threatens the city. It’s set in an unnamed fantasy time period and place in the past, which may resemble 19th century London. And it was that very setting which helped me anchor the fantasy elements of the novel into believability.

My middle-grade novel Airball: My Life In Briefs (Roaring Brook, 2005, 2003) began life as a fractured fairy tale—“The Emperor’s New Clothes” retold with a modern middle-school basketball team. It was intended to be a funny realistic story, but because of the fairy tale underpinning, early drafts occasionally tread too close to fantasy to be believable.

I spent so much time hauling Airball back from the fantasy edge that when I began writing Nocturne, I found it hard to infuse the story with those very fantasy elements it needed. My main character, Flan, was born with amazing wizardly powers, but when it came time for her to cast a spell, I pulled back from the magic, afraid it wouldn’t be believable. When she encounters a woman in a decaying alleyway, I found myself reluctant to describe the woman as the creature she truly was—a troll. Again, I was afraid I was going over the top, afraid the troll wasn’t believable.

Ironically, although the problems I had with Airball (reining in the fantasy elements) and Nocturne (allowing the fantasy elements to soar) seemed polar opposites, the solution was the same: setting.

Setting isn’t just the buildings and streets and rivers and hills characters navigate during the course of a story. It’s also the way those physical features affect the characters, the history and circumstances of a place that shape the attitudes and behavior of the people who live there. To make my stories believable, I needed to create specific settings in which these particular stories could take place.

In the case of Airball, I needed to create a small town so firmly rooted in its basketball tradition that basketball players would do anything—including play ball in their underwear—to win.

For Nocture, I needed to create a neighborhood so plagued by past tragedies that the townspeople hunkered down, afraid and suspicious of anything new or different. I set the tone by cloaking the town in fog and shadows. I used specific language—carriage wheels clattering along cobblestones, time-worn dust wafting from the pages of ancient spell books, steam swirling above a teacup—to set the place firmly and realistically in my (and, I hoped, the reader’s) head. Once setting was solidly in place, I could build my story world on its steady foundation.

It’s the same writing advice I give kids during school visits: Make the real parts as concrete and true as you can so that the parts you make up will seem completely believable.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest Posts at Desert Dispatches and Bowllan's Blog

Check out my recent musings at two terrific blogs in the kidlitosphere:

Guest Dispatches: Cynthia Leitich Smith/Austin, Texas, hosted by Janni Lee Simner from Desert Dispatches. Peek: "Austin is the kind of place that’s almost impossible to leave—a capital city, a college town, high tech, overeducated, joyfully diverse. Crunchy, funky, corporate and entrepreneurial. Hippy, urban cowboy and urban cool. A 24-7 celebration of the arts."

Writers Against Racism: Cynthia Leitich Smith, hosted by Amy Bowllan at Bowllan's Blog from School Library Journal. Peek: "Speculative fiction has long illuminated real-world societal dynamics. For some kids, it’s in this fantastical context that the pain of injustice and importance of cross-cultural respect will finally click."

Howdy to Natrona County Public Library (Casper, WY) Book Club

Howdy to librarian Jennifer Beckstead and the YA readers at Natrona County Public Library (Casper, Wyoming) Book Club!

Thank you for reading Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007, 2008). I hope you enjoy Quincie's story.

Blessed, which will come out next February, picks up at the scene where Tantalize leaves out, and the story incorporates characters from Eternal (Candlewick, 2009, 2010).

On Monday, I emailed my editor final tweaks on what's called "the pass pages." They're formatted like they will be for the final book, but there's still time to make some tweaks.

Tantalize: Kieren's Story, a graphic novel, is also in the works. It's being illustrated by Ming Doyle, and the sketches are amazing. The GN comes at the story from the point of view of Kieren Morales and includes many new scenes. Yesterday, I sent the copy-edited version of the manuscript back to Candlewick.

As for my own reading, I just finished Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee (Bloomsbury, 2009) and am about to start The Agency 2: The Body in the Tower by Y.S. Lee (Candlewick, 2010)--a sequel to The Agency 1: A Spy in the House.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Cynthia Leitich Smith

p.s. If you like spooky books, check out Gothic Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Romance, and Urban Fantasy for Tweens and Teens.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guest Post: Kimberly Pauley on Writing Sequels

By Kimberly Pauley

When I wrote my first book, Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe) (Mirrorstone, 2008, 2009), I had ideas for what the next two books (should I get to write them, of course) would be like.

But a lot of things changed after my publisher decided to take a chance on me, including the age of the main character, which completely changed my plan for the second book. And, as a first-timer with a smaller publisher, I had no idea whether or not I was going to be actually asked to write a second or third book.

So, I put it all out of my head and tried to be as patient as possible.

Then the fan letters started coming. E-mails and even snail mail from kids across the country who had definite ideas about what a sequel should contain. And many of those ideas weren’t anything I’d remotely been considering. They also had questions about characters that I’d felt I was pretty done with…but they obviously weren’t.

When my publisher asked me to continue the series, I was really starting from scratch. I really just knew that hey, my main character was now a vampire (and not a sparkly one or one that bites the head off of people who annoy her). I started wondering what would come next for her. What would her challenges be?

I went back to all of the emails and letters I’d been sent and made notes. What did people feel were loose ends from the first book that I ought to wrap up? What made sense to incorporate and answer in a sequel?

Ultimately, the sequel was heavily influenced by my readers. It’s a completely different book than what it would have been if I’d written it immediately following Sucks to Be Me (though the first few paragraphs are exactly the same as what I wrote in my original notes).

That said, the book is also probably vastly different from what it would be if I wrote it right now.

That’s the crazy thing about writing; you’re influenced by so many different things, from how you feel that day to things you’ve recently read to…well, everything.

It’s also the nature of a book. A book is never, ever finished. You simply get to a point where you and your editor are reasonably happy with how it is and you go with that. Left to our own devices, a writer would endlessly fiddle with a book, changing little thing after little thing. Or maybe that’s just me.

I’m sure that, if I get to write a third book in the Sucks to Be Me series, it will also be heavily influenced by my readers.

I’ve already heard that they’d really like to know what happens to Cameron, a character introduced in Still Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Smith, Teen Vampire (Mirrorstone, 2010).

Me? Right now I have a vague idea of what will happen to him and to Mina, and I really can’t wait to find out more myself.

Cynsational Notes

Check out this Sucks to Be Me book trailer from What Bri Reads: YA Book Reviews:

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Voice: N.H. Senzai on Shooting Kabul

N.H. Senzai is the first-time author of Shooting Kabul (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, 2010)(chapter one). From the promotional copy:

Fadi never imagined he’d start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles away from home in Kabul. But, here he was, half a world apart from his missing six-year-old sister who’d been lost because of him, as they'd fled Afghanistan.

Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family, and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war-torn Afghanistan seem slim -- impossible.

Desperate, Fadi tries every harebrained scheme he can think of to find her. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s experience fleeing Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in 1979, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

Photo by Sylvia Fife.

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

I moved to Jubail, Saudi Arabia; from San Francisco, California; when I was four years old. My father, a civil engineer had been transferred there for work, so my family packed up our bags and moved to the desert, along the Arabian Gulf.

In 1970s Saudi Arabia, there wasn’t much for a kid to do, especially in 100 degree plus heat. There was very little television to watch, or other entertainment options. So the library at our school, Jubail Academy, became our refuge. That is where I met two women, our librarians Mrs. Hackworth and Mrs. Murray, who planted the seeds of my writing career. It was deviously simple really, they got me addicted to reading anything and everything.

Ever patient, encouraging, and with a healthy sense of humor, these women showed me the mysteries of the Dewey Decimal system and introduced me to writers, both well known and obscure. We were lucky to have a well-funded library that had thousands of books, so we had a lot to browse through, both fiction and nonfiction.

Mrs. Hackworth and Mrs. Murray were always there to help me; especially when we had projects to work on – they would find obscure reference books and find information on any topic we needed (wow, before the Internet!).

I checked out ten books at a time and read many of them multiple times. Within these pages, I explored new worlds, learned about history, science and the universe. Through reading grew a passion for writing – I wanted to be like the authors whose books I adored.

I met Mrs. Murray again, two and half decades later, at a school reunion, and was in touch with Mrs. Hackworth via Facebook. I’m proud to say I made them both cry when I told them that my children’s book, Shooting Kabul, was coming out, and that I’d dedicated it in part to them.

So thank you ladies, and all librarians everywhere, who open the door to endless possibilities.

Cynsational Notes

Book-a-Brac: official blog of author N.H. Senzai. Peek: "By day I am an intellectual property consultant, helping inventors, companies and lawyers with IP issues. By night I'm a children's book writer...."
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