Friday, August 13, 2010

Shelf Sightings: Eternal in Poland

James Klise, author of Love Drugged (Flux, 2010), writes, "We saw the Polish edition of Eternal in Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, and Torun (famous for two things: Copernicus and gingerbread!). The Polish chain Empik, which is like Borders, is promoting it heavily. Yay!"

Let's take a peek!

Wow, top row, face out and in great company!

Here's the back cover! Can any of y'all read it? (I recognize "bestsellerze Top 5, the New York Times...Zachariasz...Mirandy...wampira..." and that's about it!

Big thanks to James for sending on the report and photos! Much appreciated!

Cynsational Update

Over at Cynsations at LiveJournal, Anna Staniszewski translates:

A romantic and lyrical story of the dangerous love between a girl turned into a vampire and a fallen angel in this Top 5 bestseller in the New York Times in March 2010.

Eternally Banished

Zachary would do anything for Miranda. For her, he breaks the rule that guardian angels are warned never to break: he shows himself to his dying love. But even then he isn't able to protect her. Attacked by a vampire, Miranda succumbs to a dark transformation...

Thank you, Anna!

Cynsational News & Giveaways

In celebration of her newly redesigned website, Heather Vogel Frederick is giving away three advance reader copies of her upcoming release, Pies & Prejudice (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 14, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Right before the start of their freshman year, the mother-daughter book club faces yet another challenge when Emma’s family unexpectedly moves to England.

Leave it to the resourceful girls, however, to find a way to continue meeting and discuss a particularly fitting choice, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
In England, Emma encounters a new queen bee, Annabelle, who sets out to make her life miserable. Back in Massachusetts, meanwhile, Annabelle’s cousins swap homes with Emma’s family and are causing some major distractions. Cassidy clashes with moody Tristan, a modern day Mr. Darcy, while her friends swoon over Tristan’s younger brother Simon.

As the year progresses, the girls each discover new talents, and when they cook up a plan to bring Emma home for a visit by holding a bake sale, it grows into a thriving business, Pies & Prejudice. After their sweet scheme looks like it’s going to fall short, though, they’re left wondering if the club will ever all be together again.

Leave a comment here at Heather's blog to enter; deadline: midnight PST Aug. 15--winners announced Aug. 16. Read a Cynsations interview with Heather.

More News & Giveaways

Nancy Werlin: The Anatomy of a Book Cover: a conversation with Elizabeth Bluemle from Shelf Talker. Peek: "Conceptually, though, the 'same but different' mission was tricky for the designer. You couldn’t have the cover of Extraordinary (Dial, 2010) suggest to readers that they’d be getting the continuing adventures of Lucy Scarborough from Impossible (Dial, 2008), only that they are likely to get a similar reading experience." Read a Cynsations interview with Nancy.

Cover Stories: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey from Melissa Walker. Peek: "The model who represents Jess looks eerily like how I picture her in my mind...." Read a Cynsations interview with Beth.

Unreliable Narrators by Jennifer R. Hubbard from writerjenn. Peek: "How can we convey this unreliability without shouting it at the reader? How can we walk the tightrope between being too obscure and too obvious?"

Top 20 Picture Book Agents in Publishers Marketplace by Brenda Sturgis from Peek: "The world of children's literature is packed with promise and savvy literary agents, listed below are the top 20 deal makers as of Aug. 6, 2010." Note: not all sales are reported to PM, so this should be taken as a general indicator rather than a complete listing.

Writers Against Racism: Bethany Hegedus from Amy Bowllan at Bowllan's Blog at School Library Journal. Peek: "What I hope to accomplish in Truth with a Capital T (Delacorte, 2010) is to depict a modern-family story that showcases the blended families of those of my friends and family and also asks hard questions as it harkens back to the past."

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq: a recommendation by Sally from papertigers blog. Peek: "Yes, librarians can be super-heroes, and Alia is a prime example of the kind of courage and determination, as well as wit and presence-of-mind that it takes to save a library from imminent ruin."

Florida Writers Foundation Silent Auction Call for Donations from Larissa's World. Peek: "I'd love to get a bunch of critiques and other writerly prizes and auction those online a couple of weeks before the conference so everyone can bid!" Note: the FWF (the charity arm of the Florida Writers Association), is a non profit 501 (c) 3 benefiting literacy."

The Book Trailer Manual: Build Trust, Gain Readers and Break-out with the Right Video about Your Book: a new blog from Darcy Pattison. Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Thinking Like a Nine-to-Fiver by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "Yes, it’s easier if you work at an office with a boss. None of your friends or family members expect things from you during the day when you work outside the home. So your only option is learning to say 'no.'"

Do You Tell a Potential Agent About That Other Project? by Jackie Morse Kessler from Open Up and Say "Blog." Peek: "You may never write that down-the-road project." Note: also includes insights on YALITCHAT at Twitter.

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominees from YALSA. Updated as of Aug. 9. Nominees include Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge (Candlewick, 2010).

Is Your Story Real, and Are You Your Characters? by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog: Writer Talk. Peek: "I write what I know and what I know is that any story I write will have parts that are taken from real life and put into the Crazy Imagination Blender™ and used in the construction of character and story along with totally made up parts." Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Interview with Lisa Schroeder from Debbi Michiko Florence. Peek: "My best books have come about because I tried something new, even though I was scared to do so." Read a Cynsations interview with Lisa.

Writing Is a Business by Lisa Shearin from The Magic District. Peek: "Before I was published, my deadlines were self-imposed, which meant that I could take all the time I wanted to make my manuscript as perfect as possible. Now, I essentially have nine months from typing that first word, to turning in a final manuscript to my editor. The deadlines are in your contract, so they might as well be graven in granite." Source: Elizabeth Scott. Note: hang in there, debut authors; others before you have survived this and gone on to prosper.

Inside the Writer's Studio with Kathi Appelt by Bethany Hegedus from Writer Friendly; Bookshelf Approved. Peek: "The biggest challenge I had with Keeper was actually figuring out Keeper herself. I felt I knew all of the supporting cast, each one of them, including the animals."

Making the Most Out of Your Conference Critique by Cynthea Liu. Peek: "Your hands are sweating. You lie awake at night. You can’t stop thinking about your face-to-face critique with the publishing professional of your dreams." Source: A Brief Word (Writers' League of Texas). Read a Cynsations interview with Cynthea.

Guest Blog: Jennifer R. Hubbard on The Secret Year from readergirlz. Peek: "...most writers who include sexually active characters in their YA books want to lift that veil of secrecy and shame a little, to confront some basic truths of human nature and cut through the myths and mysteries."

Balancing Pain: Things to Consider When Throwing Rocks at Your Character by Maggie Jamison from Apex Book Company. Peek: "A friend asked me a few weeks ago about balancing both pain and sympathy in fiction: how do you create a character who suffers immensely, but who doesn’t sound whiny to the reader?" Source: Jennifer R. Hubbard via Terri-Lynne DeFino.

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Lindsey Scheibe for signing with literary agent Mandy Hubbard, and congratulations to Mandy for signing Lindsey! Read a Cynsations interview with Mandy.

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster, 2010):

Check out the book trailer for Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, 2010).

Follow David's blog tour:

Aug. 9 – Picture Book Review
Aug. 10 - Katie's Literature Lounge
Aug. 11 – Readaholic
Aug. 12 - Two Writing Teachers
Aug. 13 - Not Just for Kids
Aug. 14 - Milk and Cookies, Comfort Reading...
Aug. 15 - Bookworm's Dinner
Aug. 16 - Where the Best Books Are
Aug. 17 – KidsLit review

Check out the trailer for Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham (Viking, 2010).

Check out the Rampant and Ascendant (both HarperTeen) Book Trailer, featuring author Diana Peterfreund:

Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature demonstrates Google's Story Search program.

WriteOnCon: a free online children's-YA writers' conference. Check out: The Revision Process by Cynthea Liu (part two, three), Romance in YA by Lisa Schroder, Plot and Pacing by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk (part two, three) and much more!

In the video below, P.J. "Tricia" Hoover offers writing advice from many children's-YA authors (and at least one librarian) who attended the June conference of the American Library Association.

Interview with Egmont USA publisher Elizabeth Law by Angela L. Fox from az-ang. See also a Cynsations interview with Elizabeth.

Author-librarian Erica Silverman on the importance of librarians to writers from Lee Wind at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Save L.A. Libraries.

More Personally

This week was quiet and productive. Yesterday, I sent off my final, final response to my Candlewick editor's final, final line edits on the pass pages for Blessed. Look for cover art soon!

I also sent her a draft of Eternal: Zachary's Story, a graphic novel. It's significantly less text heavy than Tantalize: Kieren's Story was when it first went in. Hopefully, I've learned something by having taken out so much text on that last book.

Congratulations to Margaret, winner of the Figment flash fiction contest! Note: I had the honor of judging the finalists, and Margaret has won signed copies of Tantalize and Eternal (both Candlewick). Figment is currently a private site, but you can sign up at to join in!

Last Call for 2010 Debut Authors: I have just a few (mostly December) slots remaining for my current New Voices interview series. Please contact me directly if you're a traditionally published, first-time children's-YA author who's interested in participating!

Cynsational Giveaways

Enter to win Vampire High: Sophomore Year by Douglas Reese (Delacorte, 2010)(author interview). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Vampire High: Sophomore Year" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post). I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Aug. 31. Publisher review copy; U.S. entries only.

Enter to win an author-signed copy of Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth (Knopf, 2010). To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) and type "Busing Brewster" in the subject line (Facebook, JacketFlap, MySpace, and Twitter readers are welcome to just privately message or comment me with the name in the header/post). I'll write you for contact information, if you win. Deadline: Aug. 31. Sponsored by the author; 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, 2010) will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at BookPeople in Austin.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Post: Cecil Castellucci on Letting the Story Choose Its Form

By Cecil Castellucci

People have asked me lately how it feels to transition into writing a picture book, and I don’t know how to answer that question.

I don’t know if I can say that I am a picture book writer now, even though my first picture book comes out this August. It’s called Grandma’s Gloves (Candlewick, 2010), and I am fiercely proud of it.

I think the illustrations (by Julia Denos) are beautiful and that the book is full of quiet and bloom. But I don’t know if my first picture book fits the playfulness that I adore or associate with picture books.

It’s a sad book. It’s fragile. It’s grown up, even though it’s for kids. Or maybe it’s for the kids that still live inside of grown ups and still have to deal with loss and grief.

I can tell you that, even though none of it is true, the heart of the story is true. And that what I remember most about my Grandmaman Jeanne was her house full of plants, her blooming violets, her watering cans. I can also tell you that my mother is the same way with plants. And so is my brother. I can tell you with full honesty that I have no gift with green things. I am better at making the homemade donuts. And drinking the Jasmine tea. And using the toaster from the 1950s that she gave me.

I always thought that, as writers, our voice is sort of stuck at a certain age. Mine was 15, and that is why I love writing YA (I now believe my inner voice is 17).

I was skeptical that I would ever write for little ones. So, it was with great surprise when ten years ago, after my Grandmaman died, that I had a dream and woke up and wrote this book the way that I did.

I suppose that is why we, as writers, have to remember to write the story in the way that it wants to be told, whether or not we believe we are one thing or another. That we can’t concern ourselves with categories. I am this! I am that! I can only do this or that!

After all, haven't I always believed that a story tells you how it wants to be told? I want to be a poem. I want to be a comic book.I want to be a song. I want to be a play. I want to be a novel. I want to be a short story.

I woke up that morning and I listened, and it came out as a picture book. I hope to continue waking up and telling stories the way that they want to be told, regardless of whether or not I think I can do it. I hope you will, too.

And I hope you enjoy my first picture book, Grandma’s Gloves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Voice: Leah Cypess on Mistwood

Leah Cypess is the first-time author of Mistwood (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2010). From the promotional copy:

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty--because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court...until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart...and everything she thought she knew.

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 am definitely a plunger. It depends on the book, but I often start with only the vaguest idea of how the plot will come together. With Mistwood, all I had when I first put pen to paper was that first scene – a misty forest in which a supernatural creature was being hunted by men on horseback. I had no clue what would happen in chapter two.

This approach appeals to me because it’s fun. I love that creative rush when the ideas flow from my mind to my pen; I love it when my characters surprise me by taking the story in new directions. I love it when a random line of dialogue turns out to hold an important plot twist – one I didn’t know was coming when I wrote that dialogue.

I have to say that this approach isn’t terribly efficient – I often end up throwing out pages of writing that were leading me down dead ends, and I go through a lot of revision. But when I try to start with an outline, I find that once the outline is done I have no real urge to write the book.

My advice to beginning writers would be to do what works for you. I like my method (using the term “method” criminally loosely), but a lot of other writers are probably shuddering as they read it.

Experiment. Read about how other authors write – I once read in an interview with
Diana Gabaldon that she writes parts of her book out of order, and experimenting with that technique really freed up my creativity.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or to "waste" writing on plot threads you’re sure you’ll have to delete. You may surprise yourself. And even if you don’t, what you learn will help you write scenes you don’t have to delete.

As someone who’s the primary caregiver of children, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

I wrote most of Mistwood before I had kids; but I started its companion book, which will be published in 2011, when my oldest daughter was about six months old.

She’s now three years old, with a baby sister; and, obviously, the career building is mostly happening now.

So it’s been a bit of a challenge, though it’s a challenge I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Last summer, my toddler could be occupied for hours at the playground, my infant was still happy to lie in the stroller, and I could've written a perky, little post about how I took my kids to the park and sat and wrote.

But last winter, when it was below freezing outside, my younger daughter was mobile, and so my writing for the day became...sporadic.

The main thing I try to do is make sure that when my kids are asleep (by hook and crook, I can usually get an hour’s overlap between their naps), that’s writing time.

Many of my other tasks – shopping, cooking, laundry – can be done together with my kids.

The tasks might take twice as long. They might involve more frustration. But they can get done. Which means that while my kids are asleep, I can concentrate on writing.

This doesn’t always work, of course, but I try to make it my goal.

Cynsational Notes

Leah Cypess has been writing since the fourth grade, but before becoming a full-time writer, she earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She worked for two years at a large New York City law firm, then moved to Boston, where she now lives with her husband and two young children. Mistwood is her first novel.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest Post: Patricia Reilly Giff on Zigzag Kids

By Patricia Reilly Giff

I love to hear my daughter Laura laugh. We’re at Mario’s Restaurant on a Friday night, all of us, and she’s talking about teaching at the school’s afternoon center.

I’m smiling, more because of the sound of her laughter than what she says.

My grandson Jimmy also works at the center, and the two of them tell one story after another. There’s the ballroom dancing contest with a boy wearing a tie over his tee shirt. There’s a choir, a bus for swimming, string cheese snacks, and---

I sit up straight, dinner forgotten. There’s that sudden recognition: this belongs to me.

I reach for my napkin, for Laura’s, for my husband Jim’s. I scrawl words that I may not even be able to read later. But it doesn’t make any difference.

George Nicholson, my agent, suggests, “Call it the Zigzag Afternoon Center.”

I stop in at Laura’s school to see where it all happens. Nothing’s changed since my teaching days. Not the look of the school, not the kids, not even the smell of leftover lunch.

And so I begin. No plot, no plan. Just a few words: Mitchell McCabe looked up at the classroom clock. Were the hands moving? Maybe not. School would never be over.

It’s almost a return to my Polk Street School series (Random House). The difference is that Polk Street centered on the school day; Zigzag takes place after school where so much is going on at once.

The vocabulary is easy; the sentences are short. Writing for this age is like wrapping myself in my warm robe on a winter day.

It’s different from writing one of my novels where the character development and plot are more involved, more intricate. Here, I just have to meet my characters, Mitchell and Destiny, Yolanda, Charlie, and the others.

They’re transparent. I just have to follow them along wherever they go. It’s almost as if they’re telling me, “Hey, over here. Take a look at what we’re doing.”

Really, I could write about the Zigzag Afternoon Center forever.

ZigZag Kids Blog Tour

Aug. 10 Cynsations

Aug. 11 Random Acts of Reading

Aug. 12 Where the Best Books Are!

Aug. 13 Shelf Elf

Aug. 14 Mundie Moms

Aug. 15 The Children’s Book Review

Aug. 16 Chicken Spaghetti

Aug. 17 Patricia Reilly Giff

(two additional dates outside of the tour):

Aug. 25

Sept. 7

Cynsational Notes

Patricia Reilly Giff is the author of the Polk Street School books and the Polka Dot Private Eye books, and a two-time recipient of the Newbery Honor for Lily’s Crossing (Delacorte, 1997) and Pictures of Hollis Woods (Wendy Lamb, 2002).

Monday, August 09, 2010

New Voice: Jacqueline Houtman on The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

Jacqueline Houtman is the first-time author of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Science geek Eddy Thomas can invent useful devices to do anything, except solve his bully problem.

Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can’t read the emotions on the faces of his classmates at Drayton Middle School.

He can spend hours tinkering with an invention, but he can’t stand more than a few minutes in a noisy crowd, like the crowd at the science fair, which Eddy fails to win.

When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy is haunted by thoughts of the potentially disastrous consequences and invents a traffic-calming device, using parts he has scavenged from discarded machines. Eddy also discovers new friends, who appreciate his abilities and respect his unique view of the world.

By trusting his real friends, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success.

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view featured in your novel? What considerations came into play? Did you try the story from a different point of view at some point? If so, what made you change your mind?

One of the first—and most important—decisions I made was to write the book in the third person. I never really considered first person, which would make Eddy more self-aware and eloquent than I wanted him to be.

Also, I wanted there to be things that Eddy didn’t notice or find important, things that the reader would notice, but Eddy wouldn’t. Eddy’s naïveté and lack of social awareness would be reflected in the fact that the reader would perceive more about what was going on in Eddy’s world than Eddy did.

It was also important that the narration be strictly from Eddy’s point of view. Even without a first person narration, I wanted the reader to know what was going on in Eddy’s head, to understand why he did things that would seem very weird to an outsider, but made perfect sense to Eddy. But I didn’t want Eddy to have to tell the reader about it, I wanted him to show it. And I didn’t want the reader’s reaction to Eddy to be filtered through any other characters.

By using third person (limited) I hoped to be able to show both what was going on in Eddy’s head and what he was missing.

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?

I first saw Joy Neaves speak at the 2007 Fall Retreat of the Wisconsin chapter of SCBWI (A great event, with a legendary snack table).

I had been working on The Reinvention of Edison Thomas and struggling with the two storylines--one technical and one emotional.

Joy gave this amazing talk about how the main character’s inner and outer journeys are interconnected. She drew a diagram that crystallized the relationship between these two storylines for me. In fact, her whole talk seemed to be addressing the very problems I was having with my manuscript. I remember standing there after the talk, staring at the diagram.

I spoke with Joy briefly, but not much beyond, “Hello, I enjoyed your talk. Would you like another piece of chocolate? How about some cheese curds? Have you tried the kringle?”

I was so energized after that retreat, so many ideas. (So much food.)

Over the next few months, in between freelance gigs, I made major revisions in the manuscript. I beefed up a conflict and added two chapters, referring back frequently to the notes I had taken during Joy’s talk.

Joy had said that she was looking for strong characters with their own way of looking at the world. Eddy certainly has his own way of looking at the world, so on June 19, 2008, I emailed a query and three chapters to Joy. On July 1, she requested the full manuscript. She made an offer two days later.

Joy had already had a huge editorial influence on the manuscript before she had even seen it, so it was almost too perfect that she be the one to acquire it.

It was a delight to work with her. She would ask questions that made me look at the manuscript in new ways, to think about different ways to communicate ideas and information that would move the plot along more effectively. She asked for big-picture changes, but gave me specific ideas of how to accomplish those changes.

I think the revision process was my favorite part of the whole “path to publication.” And that’s my “Ode to Joy.”

Cynsational Notes

From Boyds Mills: "Jacqueline Houtman holds a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She writes about a variety of biomedical topics, including asthma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is her first novel."

Sciency Fiction: Jacqueline Houtman's Writing Blog.
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