Friday, January 21, 2011

Cynsational News & Blessed/Night School Giveaways

L.K. Madigan's Feast of Awesome Giveaway by Cindy Pon from the 2009 Debutantes. Peek: "How can we best express our love and support for Lisa during this time? Through the celebration of her books. only a fellow writer can know the angst and turmoil associated with creating stories--because we put so much of ourselves in them. Won't you help us in spreading L.K. Madigan Book Love?"

ALA Youth Media Awards: Which Publishers Are Celebrating? by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "I’ll start with a summary, and then post the full list below...."

The Agent’s Role in Today’s Digital Book World by Mary Kole, Literary Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency from Digital Book World. Peek: "as publishers embrace different content delivery systems and processes, agents will take on more packaging responsibilities: editorial work, marketing consultation, design, etc. Whether we’re presenting a book to editors or an app proposal to a digital publisher, we will have had a more active hand in its reaching 'market ready' status."

How to Create a Podcast: Ready to Step Out of Your Blogging Comfort Zone? by Joanna Penn from The Creative Pen. Peek: "You can use BlogTalkRadio or other free hosted solutions but I don’t think the quality is very good and iTunes is a great stand-alone market so it’s worth having your own feed."

What's Going on With Borders? by Carolyn Kellogg from Jacket Copy from the L.A. Times. Peek: "Barnes & Noble, if buffeted by Amazon's success, has remained afloat; Borders has been taking on water." Note: a clear, succinct update on the status of the Borders chain.

Native authored-books on the 2011 Notable Children's Books list by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Special congrats to fellow Texas author Tim Tingle on the recognition for Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness to Light (Cinco Puntos, 2010).

Should I Mention My Blog in My Query? by Peek: "...if you have a huge blog on, say, mountain climbing, but your book has nothing to do with mountain climbing, you don’t have the built-in audience an agent or editor is looking for, and mentioning your blog will look like a non sequitur."

Authors on the Internet: Facing Up To Facebook by Tami Lewis Brown from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "This week in the Tollbooth we’ll look at Facebook and authors. We’ll see who’s doing what, check out some innovative sites for readers and writers, and look out for pitfalls."

Celebrating Rejection by Danyelle from Peek: "...why celebrate something that can be so painful? Something that we sometimes even come to believe for a time? Because rejection is proof that you're not just existing--you're living."

2011 Rainbow Project List Announced by the ALA Rainbow Project: Recommended GLBTQ Books for Young Readers. Peek: "...these titles reflect signifigant gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans-gendered/queer-questioning (GLBTQ) experience for young people from birth to age 18." Note: special cheer's to Austin's own April Lurie, author of The Less-Dead (Delacorte, 2010). Read a Cynsations interview with April.

SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview: Advice on Critiques from Editors and Agents by Alice Pope from Alice Pope's SCBWI Children's Market Blog. Q&A with editors Krista Marino (Delacorte), Franceso Sedita (Penguin) and Jennifer Rees (Scholastic) and agents Kerry Sparks (Levine/Greenberg) and Mary Kole (Andrea Brown). Peek from Krista: "Always keep in mind that editors and agents want to work with writers who are open to suggestions, not writers who think their work is already done. Act appropriately."

SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference Interview: Jennifer Besser, Publisher of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group, by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "Having an agent is very important, and has been for some time now. Of the deals I made in 2010, at least 95% of them were agented, and most years it’s 100%."

Hardiness by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid: A Medicine Chest of Hope. Peek: "I know for a fact that when I focus on the finish line–the day I can say the book is done–that it feels overwhelming."

David Lubar's Travel Challenge: "I have nine school visits scheduled during January, February, and March. I also have a frightening ability to attract terrible weather. (Some schools in rural areas book me in the spring because they need the rain.)" Root for David, and/or commit to donate (be it 10 cents or a dollar) to the charity of your choice each time he foils his bad travel karma! Go, David!

A Video Conversation with Rita Williams-Garcia by Uma Krishaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Rita talks about the origins of One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010). See also the 2011 National African American Read-In from Kyra at Black Threads in Kidlit.

A Crisis of Self-Confidence by Mary Kole from Peek: "Sometimes frustration is a good thing — it spurns you on when you might otherwise quit — but I find that the specific frustration of not being published yet has one common cure: stop submitting and start nursing the writing."

Writing a Young Narrator by Erik Raschke from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I really focused on the framework in which teens communicated with one another and less on what was actually being said. Once I had written the situation, i.e. boys getting ready to fight, boys talking about sexy movie stars, I could cut out the modern language and replace it with how I used to speak when I was a budding teen (which was roughly the same time The Book of Samuel (St. Martin's, 2009) takes place)."

Congratulations to Jenny Moss on the release of Taking Off (Walker, 2010)! From the promotional copy: "Annie Porter, a high school senior who wants to be a poet and is caught up in a romantic triangle, meets Christa McAuliffe before the space shuttle Challenger accident." School Library Journal says, "The novel paints a lovely portrait of a smart, strong, friendly McAuliffe. In fact, the author’s background as a NASA engineer makes all of the scenes based at Johnson or Kennedy Space Center grounded and intriguing. Moss’s descriptive language is almost poetic." Purchase from the author's home indie, Blue Willow Bookshop.

Taming Time: Practical Tips to Increase Writing Productivity by Sarah Sundin from Novel Journey. Peek: "'I am a professional. I am a professional.' Repeat this until you believe it. Now, act like it. Keep office hours. Even if you only have one hour a day to write, use it well."

2011 Spotlight Authors and Illustrators from 28 Days Later: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature. Peek: "To celebrate children’s authors and illustrators of color, during the twenty-eight days of Black History Month we’ll profile a different artist. Vanguard artists are those who have paved the way for newer authors and illustrators, all others are considered 'under the radar.'" Tune into The Brown Bookshelf: United in Story every day in February to learn more about voices and visions from the African-American children's-YA book community. Highest recommendation.


From Madeline at CBAY: Until Jan. 31, "we will accept unsolicited manuscript submissions for only fantasy and science fiction picture books. These will be for traditional 32-page picture books for ages 2-5.

"...the picture book must either be a fantasy (fairy tales, dragons, fairies, etc.) or a sciene-fiction (time travel, space, under the ocean, steampunk, etc.) tale. We will not consider any other type of picture book. However, we will look at number or alphabet books with a fantasy or science fiction theme. Finally, we will not consider manuscripts written for older children at this time. This is a call for fantasy and science fiction picture books, exclusively." See more information.

Cynsational Screening Room

Check out the book trailer for Tyrannosaurus Math by Michelle Markel (Tricycle/Random House, 2009)(author interview). Note: this week, Michelle is hosting a series of interviews on book trailers; see A Librarian's Viewpoint and interviews with Tom Lichtenheld, Tina Nichols Coury, and Mary Ann Fraser.

A video interview with Janet Fox about Faithful (Speak, 2010) by Kathi Appelt:

A video interview with librarian Nancy Pearl from Author Magazine. Source: Kirby Larson.

Congratulations to fellow Austinite and YA author Ruth Pennebaker on the release of her first adult novel, Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakthrough (Berkley Trade, 2011).

More Personally

Blessed will be released on Tuesday, and so this post is bursting with countdown interviews, guest posts, upcoming events, and giveaways! Thank you so much to the bloggers and event planners! I'm honored by your interest, enthusiasm, and efforts. Most appreciated!

I'm also still on deadline for book four in the Tantalize series, which will continue to feature characters from the previous books but is more of a sequel to events in Eternal.

However, I did manage to peek out of the house for a couple of writing community events this week! So, here's my full report!

Tantalize was named a Top Ten pick on the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) list of 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults in the "What's Cooking?" category ("tasty reads to fill your belly and warm your soul.").

Previous honors for Tantalize include:
  • Borders Original Voices Nominee, March 2007
  • Featured title, 2007 National Book Festival
  • 2007-2008 Tayshas List
  • Chapters (Canada) Junior Advisory Board (JAB) pick
  • Featured title, 2007 Texas Book Festival
  • Featured title, 2007 Kansas Book Festival
Mundie Moms says of Eternal: "'s a story about deception, redemption, love, danger, and hope. It's a story that both fans of Dracula and paranormal characters will enjoy reading." Read the whole review.

This week, BookPeople in Austin is celebrating the ALA award winners.

Jessica Lee Anderson gave an inspiring, musical, insightful presentation at the first Austin SCBWI meeting of the year. Here she is with fellow author Betty X Davis.

ARA Carmen Oliver, author-illustrator Emma Virjan and authors Shana Burg and Jennifer Ziegler.

K.A. Holt, author of Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! (Roaring Brook, 2010), models her latest zombie accessory.

Afterward, about 20 of us ended up next door at the Shoal Creek Saloon. Here's Greg, next to newcomer Sara Pennypacker, across from Bethany Hegedus, Sara Kocek (the newest face at the Writers' League of Texas), and Margo Rabb.

Link of the Week: check out Libba Bray's latest cover from Professor Nana.

Blessed Grand Prize Giveaway

Enter to win the Blessed grand prize giveaway from Cynsations! The prize package includes: final hardcover of Blessed (Candlewick, 2011); magnetic Sanguini's menu wipe board with pen that reads, "Stop in for a late-night bite;" Sanguini's magnet; laminated poster from the movie "Dracula," (1931); dragon finger puppet; wolf finger puppet; plush bat stuffed toy; Tantalize postcards; series tie-in buttons; angel wing charm; and Dracula by Bram Stoker, illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, retold by Nicky Raven (Templar/Candlewick, 2010)(view an inside spread).

To enter, leave a comment at this post at Blogger or this post at LiveJournal! For an extra entry(s): Post, share, tweet, whatever works: (a) this giveaway and/or (b) the Blessed book trailer and/or a Blessed countdown widget; and include the URL in your comment! Also, make sure to include contact information in case you win. Author-publisher sponsored. U.S./Canada entries only. Deadline: Jan. 31.

The Teen {Book} Scene Blog Tour: Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Blessed Blog Tour & ARC/Prize Package Giveaways by Kari from The Teen {Book} Scene (enter at the links below for more chances to win--multiple prizes available!):
  • an interview with Quincie from Bookworming in the 21rst Century; peek: "Blessed proved to be a thrilling continuation of the series by highlighting Quincie's dire situation and her transformation as not only a neophyte but as a stronger, more assertive young woman. "
  • my guest post, Bringing Together the Casts of Tantalize and Eternal from The Book Scout; peek: "In Blessed, heroes from Eternal may be found in Sanguini’s, the vampire-themed restaurant in Tantalize. Likewise, Quincie steps fully, for the first time, into the underworld.
  • Blessed review from Pirate Penguin Reads; peek: "Blessed proved to be a thrilling continuation of the series by highlighting Quincie's dire situation and her transformation as not only a neophyte but as a stronger, more assertive young woman."
  • an interview with Kieren from The Serpentine Library; peek: "or as long as I could recall, I found it boring when she talked about new recipes and napkins. I was polite, but…Then one day, I found every word she said fascinating. Quince herself, fascinating. The way her lips moved… She could talk about napkins forever, and I’d be thrilled to hear it."
  • author interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith from Mundie Moms; peek: "Don’t ever let fear stop your art—especially if you’re writing horror."
Truth Be Told Blessed Countdown & Giveaways

Blessed Online Countdown Event by Valorie from Truth Be Told. Valorie will be posting reviews, book trailers, teaser excerpts, and fun author-and-character interviews. She's giving away two bookplate-autographed copies of Blessed, each with a Magnetic Sanguini's menu wipe board and pen (see photo above). She's also giving away one board to (a) a random commenter and another to (b) "a person who helps promote the release of the book, randomly chosen based on tweets, adding it to goodreads, and blogging. It will go to someone who didn't win the hardcover." Giveaway deadline: 11 p.m. PST Jan. 24. See details.

Embracing My Spooky Side: a guest post by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Peek: "I had no interest in violent, slasher flicks, though I enjoyed more atmospheric films (with plots) like "Poltergeist" (1982) and "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987). The latter-featuring Jack Nicholson as the devil-especially appealed to me because of its female-empowerment reversal at the end."

In Valorie's review of Tantalize, she says: "The last few chapters of Tantalize were my favorite. This is where you see Quincie show who she really is. These last few chapters are also packed with suspense and action, much of which is unexpected."

Blessed Launch Party

Joint Launch Party: Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick) and Night School by Mari Mancusi (Berkley) book party and signing at 2 p.m. Jan. 29 at BookPeople in Austin. Event will include author talks, Q&A, refreshments and signing. Wear red and black if you're on the side of Evil or blue and black if you're on the side of Good. Bonus points (and possible prize) to anyone who dresses up as a vampire, shape shifter, vampire slayer, angel or faerie!

Last call! Comment here for a chance to win an autographed copy of Night School! Deadline: Jan. 21.

More Cynsational Events

Blessed In-Person Author Tour Schedule in Central Texas and the Northeastern U.S.: sponsored by Candlewick Press. Are you in Austin, New York, New Jersey, or the Philly area? Come join me along the way!

12th Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 in Fort Myers, Florida. Note: speakers include Cynthia Leitich Smith.

SCBWI-Wisconsin Novel Revision Workshop with author Cynthia Leitich Smith from March 25 to March 27. Note: "Registration is limited to 25 persons."

Book Now for 2011-2012

It's two YA authors for the price of one! Book now for the 2011-2012 school year and beyond!

"From Classics to Contemporary:" a joint presentation offered by Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of the Tantalize series (inspired by Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)) and Jennifer Ziegler, author of Sass & Serendipity (inspired by Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)).

The authors will discuss how they were inspired by these classics, why Stoker and Austen's themes are still relevant to teens/YAs today, the ongoing conversation of books over the generations, and much more.

Contact Dayton Bookings for more information and to schedule.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guest Post: Jeanette Ingold on Writing Historical Fiction—A Roadmap to Traveling Time

By Jeanette Ingold

Not all wishes come true. I’m never going to sing on pitch or get another go at being eighteen.

However, writing historical fiction brings me pretty close to traveling across time. As impossible wishes go, one for three’s not bad.

Actually, what I really enjoy is working a story from both ends—taking a contemporary story and going backward to find its roots, while simultaneously beginning with the past and asking the What if? question on the slant. What might have happened?

Answering that is a research project. I have to know what did happen in the past and find ways to put it on paper, building it into plot, character, and setting. It’s work that’s fun, and the hardest part can be knowing when to quit.

I don’t always—-I’ve got boxes full of stuff I may never use—-but I have figured out a few approaches to efficiently get what I need for the current book and perhaps for another down the line.

Here’s what I tell myself.

1) Go after voices.

I read all the first-hand accounts I can find—journals, old letters and postcards, memoirs. I want individual stories, and I need to hear how they’re told. The sound of a particular time and the way people talked. I look for expressions and twists of syntax that can give an authentic flavor to dialog.

2) Stay open to surprises.

I was at a National Archives regional depository reading New Deal materials I needed for Hitch (Harcourt, 2005) when a wonderful archivist offered to show me around.

I saw long shelves of files from the Exclusion Era, when legal immigration of Chinese laborers was virtually shut down and an underground of assumed identities flourished. I had my next book, Paper Daughter (Harcourt, 2010).

2) Read the newspapers.

The local papers that my characters would have read provide details, attitudes, prejudices, and concerns. And they put me in the middle of things, where I can see events only as far as my characters would have seen them.

One of the first things I learned researching The Big Burn (Graphia, 2003) was that close to a hundred people died when wildfires blew up in August 1910. The edition of the Wallace, Idaho, newspaper published that week told me that for the residents there, then, the reality wasn’t a hundred dead. It was four hundred men missing.

3) Look for core truths.

Studying the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, I read many accounts of the where’s and why’s that led young guys to sign up. The details varied widely, but the truth behind many was that the $25 sent home from a $30 monthly paycheck made the difference between younger siblings going hungry and being fed.

4) Talk to those who know.

I seek out people with firsthand or family experience living the events of my characters’ lives. And I’m always grateful that once people come to trust that I’ll do my best to tell their stories honestly and with respect, most are incredibly generous in sharing what they know.

5) Close the laptop, get off the bed, grab the camera and notepad, and hit the road.

I’m not dissing the Internet or pretending I don’t like having a job that lets me stay in my PJs well into the morning. But I’ve found that a computer screen is no substitute for walking the land my characters would have walked, or for standing in the space where their real counterparts once stood.

Being there takes me beyond the visual and lets me experience the sensory details that would have been constants over the years.

And occasionally, when I’m really, really lucky, I get that writer’s bonus of feeling that I’m living for a few moments in another time, when I might actually see one of my characters come walking toward me.

Cynsational Notes

The Write Question with Jeanette Ingold: an audio interview from Montana Public Radio.

From the author bio: "Ingold was born in New York to a family of Texans and grew up knowing both Dallas and Long Island, where she was raised. She and her husband, Kurt, lived in Delaware, Kansas, Texas, and Washington State before settling in Montana to raise their two children." Paper Daughter is her seventh novel.

In this video, Kathi Appelt interviews Jeanette:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Post: Frank Asch on The Daily Comet: Boy Saves Earth from Giant Octopus!

By Frank Asch

I've always loved tabloids.

They caught my eye in the checkout line at the grocery store. There they were, right next to the chewing gum and chocolate bars.

Mind candy.

I was never addicted. But sometimes I would take one home to finish a particularly outrageous story. They were always the same. Always sublimely ridiculous.

Who writes this stuff? I wondered. What imaginations they have!

I loved the far out quality of the ideas they came up with.

These guys are geniuses, I thought.

Then one day in a grocery store checkout I started chatting with the woman ahead of me in line. She didn't say it in so many words, but I got the definite feeling that she actually believed the far-out stories that were so totally and obviously unbelievable to me.

Incredible, I thought. Some people actually believe this stuff! I guess it just showed my naiveté.

We definitely live in an upside-down world where truth is up for grabs, and fantasy and facts commingle in the corporate-media soup that gets served up to us daily.

It was just too juicy a topic not to write about, especially for kids who have such a deep and primal love of fantasy. And at the same time are often such staunch realists. I find it hard to believe no one beat me to it.

I was also excited by the graphic possibilities. Tabloids have a unique look. They are a visual world unto themselves.

The earlier versions of The Daily Comet: Boy Saves Earth from Giant Octopus! illustrated by Devin Asch (Kids Can, 2010) were even more tabloid like in their appearance.

This is the third story of mine that my son, Devin, has illustrated. He uses Photoshop and Painter on a mac. We started out working as a team many years ago when he was a teenager (he's 31 now).

At first, when I was just learning to use the computer as an illustrating tool, his help was mostly technical. Some of what we did started out as pen and ink and was scanned into the computer. Now he does everything digitally from scratch.

I used to write the story and provided the concept and "look" for the illustrations. Now I just write the story and he does the rest. The look of the book, from layout to finishing touches all comes from him. So, I can just sit back and write another story.

Cynsational Notes

From Kids Can: Frank Asch was born and raised in rural New Jersey. His earliest interests were in science, specifically physics and astronomy, yet by the time he entered college he was determined to pursue a career in the Arts. Even before graduating from The Cooper Union with a degree in Fine Art, he published his first children’s book, George’s Store (McGraw-Hill) in 1968. Since then he has written over 70 children’s books. He has traveled widely, married and raised a son who has also pursued writing and illustrating as a career. Frank currently divides his time between Vermont and Hawaii.

In the video below, Frank reads Barnyard Lullaby (Aladdin, 2001). From the promotional copy: "It's bedtime and the barnyard animals are singing their babies to sleep. The farmer hears their song quite differently, however. How will he ever get to sleep?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Voice: Michael Northrop on Gentlemen

Michael Northrop is the first-time author of Gentlemen (Scholastic, 2009, 2010). From the promotional copy:

Micheal, Tommy, Mixer, and Bones aren’t just from the wrong side of the tracks—they’re from the wrong side of everything.

Except for Mr. Haberman, their remedial English teacher, no one at their high school takes them seriously. Haberman calls them “gentlemen,” but everyone else ignores them—or, in Bones’s case, is dead afraid of them.

When one of their close-knit group goes missing, the clues all seem to point in one direction: to Mr. Haberman.

Gritty, fast-paced, and brutally real, this debut takes an unflinching look at what binds friends together—and what can tear them apart.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

As a young reader, I was not a young reader, which is to say, I am dyslexic and didn’t start reading for myself until fairly late. The first things I read for fun were Dungeons & Dragons books, which I read a few pages at a time, figuring out how to create a half-elf magic user or browsing The Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 1977).

The first novel I remember reading for fun wasn’t too far afield from D&D: The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (Henry Holt, 1999). That was probably around fifth grade.

At about that time, I was assigned Watership Down by Richard Adams (Scribner, 1996) in school, and that just blew me away. I was basically sold on reading at that point, but it was still hard work for me and I still stuck mostly to what was assigned.

Around seventh grade, people began passing around Robert Cormier and S.E. Hinton books. It was sort of done “under the desk,” as if the books were somehow forbidden. (I don’t think they were anything more than lightly frowned upon, but we preferred to think of them as contraband.) That made a very strong impression on me: Not just the books, which were amazing, but also the idea that reading could be dark and cool.

Sophomore year of high school, our teacher read us the poem “Hawk Roosting” by Ted Hughes. It is written from the perspective of a hawk (“my manners are tearing off heads”), and it basically confirmed all of those earlier suspicions: Reading could be dark and cool and
exciting. It also helped me realize that interesting stories could come from extremely unlikely places.

Those elements continued to be important to me all through high school. It’s an intense time, and I gravitated toward intense writing, becoming a more avid reader each year.

When I decided to write my first young adult novel, it was important to me to write something in that vein: intense, dark, and honest about what that age can be like.

I’d love to think that a reader might pass Gentlemen to a friend under the desk, even if it would probably be just fine above it.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you find the voice of your first person protagonist? Did you do character exercises? Did you make an effort to listen to how young people talk? Did you simply free your inner kid or adolescent? And, if it seemed to come by magic, how would you suggest others tap into that power in their own writing?

I went to a small elementary school in a very small town, but the teachers were excellent. I was diagnosed as dyslexic in second grade, which is impressive (especially back then). I spent a year in special ed, and it made an enormous difference. In a larger school, I could easily have been tracked as a remedial student and just pushed along.

The narrator of Gentlemen isn’t me, but in a way, he’s the sort of teen I could have been. He’s fairly bright, but he’s been stuffed into remedial classes. No one expects much of him, and he has stopped expecting much of himself.

I’ve always been fascinated by that idea: that expectations can be self-fulfilling, whether they’re high or low, that the breaks you get early can snowball for the rest of your life. In my case, a good break in second grade helped me land in honors classes a few years later.

But it wasn’t inevitable: A few bad breaks could have had just as big an impact and led to a very different life. In that sense, writing Gentlemen felt very personal. It was a way of exploring lives like that, of portraying kids doing their best but still dragged along by those forces.

As for tapping into the teen mindset, I think it helped to set the book in a town and high school much like my own. My memories of being that age in that place are vivid and interconnected.

I was also an editor at Sports Illustrated Kids for over a decade and am very comfortable writing for specific reading levels. I think the real key is just being honest with yourself about what that age is like.

Yes, it's intense, but it can also be awkward, ridiculous, and a dozen other things. You may not, just saying, have your act entirely together.

As a writer, you need to resist the temptation to idealize it on the one hand or to lecture or superimpose an adult sensibility on the other. [See Michael as a teen below.]

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Teen {Book} Scene Blog Tour: Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Coordinated by Kari

Monday, January 17: Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century (Character Interview: Quincie)

Tuesday, January 18: Kelsey at The Book Scout
(Guest Post: Connecting Eternal and Tantalize to Blessed)

Wednesday, January 19: Sandy at Pirate Penguin Reads (Review)

January 20: Maria at The Serpentine Library (Character Interview: Kieren)

January 21: Stacy at Girls in the Stacks (Review)

Monday, January 24: Lisa at Badass Bookie (Guest Post: Secondary Characters)

January 25: Stacy at Girls in the Stacks (Character Interview: Zachary)

January 26: Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century (Review)

January 27: Kari at A Good Addiction (Ten YA Recommendations)

January 28: Sandy at Pirate Penguin Reads (Character Interview: Bradley)

Cynsational Notes

Tour includes Blessed ARC & prize pack (pictured) giveaways! Lots of chances to win!

Special thanks to Kari and all of the host bloggers! I greatly appreciate your time, efforts, and enthusiasm!

Learn more about The Teen {Book} Scene.

Don't miss the Blessed Live Author Tour Schedule (NY, NJ, Philly area, TX, etc.) and Grand Prize Giveaway from Cynsations.

Guest Post: Traci L. Jones on Writing the 1970's

By Traci L. Jones

You can talk all you want to about the joys of growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. You could brag about the music and clothes, but while I agree that there were some definite advantages to being a young person in that time, I am here to make a case for the best decade for childhood being the 1970’s.

Naturally, since I’m an African American, my view of the 50’s and 60’s is skewed, what with all the Jim Crow laws and segregation and such, toward the negative.

The 70’s, however, that was a time where Black became beautiful, when the world was opening up for us. When our music and culture stopped being relegated to the chitlin’ circuit, and was brought from the backwaters into the spotlight.

It was in this light that I wrote my second book, Finding My Place (FSG, 2010). Set smack in the middle of the 70’s--1975--I tried to take a look at growing up in a way that is not often seen in popular culture.

Most often books where the main character is African American take place in one of three settings: during Slavery, Civil Rights, or in an urban city. But there are vast amounts of people who, like me, grew up in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, where the laws had changed, but the attitudes of those around us hadn’t always caught up.

We grew up with the burden not of creating laws to expand opportunity, but with the charge of taking best advantage of the opportunities presented to us.

The 70’s is chockfull of national events and societal changes that, while I was growing up I was seemingly oblivious to, but which nonetheless had an impact on the way I viewed life, others and myself.

Here are few of the things that took place, and how differently they were viewed by my culture.


The women’s movement wasn’t viewed within the African American culture as one might assume. While White women were marching and burning their bras, demanding to have a choice to work outside of the home for equal pay, African American women, who had worked outside of their homes for more than 100 years for awful pay, felt a disconnect with that philosophy.

I remember hear many of my mother’s friends express a wistful desire that they had the chance to stay at home and raise their kids, rather than leave each morning for work.

The Hippie Culture was dying down in the early part of the 70’s, but again, it was viewed different by the African American community.

After all, many of us had just marched and died for inclusion into many of the things and institutions that the hippie culture disdained. While my people often shared the hippies’ distrust of politicians and government, it was for historical rather than philosophical reasons.


While disco reigned supreme in the mainstream, it was R&B with bands like Earth, Wind and Fire, The Commodores and The Jackson 5 that dominated in the African American culture. Often when thinking back to my childhood, there is a wonderful musical accompaniment along with the memories.

Movies and Television

With the 1970’s came a wave of Blaxplotation films, such as "Shaft," "Blacula," "Coffy," "Buck and The Preacher," and "Cleopatra Jones," which showed Blacks in roles usually reserved for White actors.

In the 1970’s, Blacks on television went from being seen rarely, in guest appearances or as sidekicks to having entire shows populated with only Black actors, like "That’s My Mama," "Sanford and Son," "Good Times," and "The Jeffersons."

The 1970’s is a ripe decade to explore full of new chances, old conflicts, unprecedented growth and societal confusion. I tried to invoke some of the challenges, opportunities and atmosphere in my book Finding My Place. I hope readers can feel the 1970’s flavor.

Thanks for listening, and in the immortal words of Don Cornelius, host of "Soul Train," here’s wishing you Love, Peace and SSSSSOOOOULLLL!
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