Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Trailer: Timeless by Alexandra Monir

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Timeless by Alexandra Monir (Delacorte, 2011). From the promotional copy:

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. 

In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. 

There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Teens and Dystopias from Scott Westerfeld. Peek: "Whatever teens embrace—whether it’s black hoodies, rap, texting, file-sharing, hoverboards, or fictional vampire boyfriends—is soon decried as a threat to civilization. And trust me, teenagers notice this adult discourse going on around them."

Linette Kim: How I Got Into Publishing from CBC Diversity. Peek: "...a NYC transplant from California working in School & Library marketing at Bloomsbury Children’s Books."

Stop Feeling Like a Wishbone at the Table of Industry Experts by Jan O'Hara from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Good, diligent, and intelligent people can still have poor understanding of a situation because of flawed data, flawed understanding of causality, or imperfect application."

Amazon Author Rankings and Who They Actually Benefit by John Scalzi from Whatever. Peek: "...some thoughts for people to consider when they look at these rankings." Source: Gwenda Bond.

5 Ways for Writers to Overcome Self-Doubt by Jon Bard from WriteToDone. Peek: "...I’ve identified five ways that writers can overcome self-doubt and move ahead with confidence and joy." Source: Janet S. Fox.

Learning to Let Go by Danyelle Leafty from QueryTracker.netBlog. Peek: "... the biggest step in letting go: when your book is in the hands of your readers."

Begin Again by Laura McGee Kvasnosky from Books Around the Table. Peek: "I sift through clippings, cards and photos saved over the years and feel around for the stories that I saw in them."

How to Get Publishers and Agents to Knock on Your Door by Alvina Ling from Blue Rose Girls. Peek: "...most agents and editors have reached out to a potential author or agent at some point, whether or not it turned into a book. Here are a few ways it can happen (note: this is for all books, not specifically children's books)..."

Emotion Behind the Story from Stina Lindenblatt. Peek: "...how do you bring in emotion to add maximum power to your story?"

Writers and Depression by Nancy Etchemendy from Horror Writers Association. Peek: "The courage it takes to deal with rejections and keep going may fail us at times. Without courage, we become fair game for depression." Note: I run this link periodically. Take care of yourself, and be good to each other.

The Sophomore Slump by Kristin Halbrook from YA Highway. Peek: "A number of factors go into that second book, all of which can contribute to frustration and slumpiness, but which can also push a writer to expand and explore the boundaries set by the first novel."

Help Readers Suspend Disbelief and Avoid Plot Holes by Elizabeth S. Craig from Writing Mystery Is Murder. Peek: "The writers had an objective to accomplish. But once I fell into this plot hole, I couldn’t climb out of it...it bothered me that much." See also Chapter Breaks and Cliffhangers by Elizabeth S. Craig from Mystery Writing Is Murder. Peek: "...folks wanted shorter chapters to accommodate their busy schedules and short amount of reading time."

Harry Potter: Beyond the Page: A Virtual Author Visit with J.K. Rowling from Edinburgh, Scotland from the Harry Potter Reading Club. Source: KidsEBookBestsellers.

How to Query an Agent Who Has Already Rejected Your Manuscript by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor.com. Peek: "...the agent will probably recognize the project. I know agents and editors who can’t remember what they ate for dinner last night but who can remember details page-and-paragraph from a story they read years ago."

The Seven Stages of Publishing Grief (Or Hello Darkness, My Old Friend) by Robin LaFevers from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "For while writing is one of the most rewarding pursuits in the world, publishing can be a long, slow, painful slog toward the pit of despair, and you can quickly find yourself in the soul sucking land of Major Disappointment."

Gluing Plot to Theme and Character to Fuel Your Story by Martina from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. Peek: "...theme must integrate tightly into plot and character, because otherwise there isn't room for it. And without theme, there is no meaning to the plot."

What to Expect When You're Expecting an Editorial Letter by Tara Dairman from EMU's Debuts. Peek: "Considering that you probably already rewrote and revised your manuscript a bazillion times before signing with your agent, then again before going on submission—and maybe again before it was acquired—you might be under the false impression that it’s in pretty good shape."

Booktalking 101: Make It Relevant! by Naomi Bates from YA Books & More. Peek: "...get audience participation by asking about something relevant going on in news or culture that can connect teens to the books.  So here's a list of the books and the tie-in I found for each one."

Cover Evolution of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell: Behind The Scenes With Creative Director Chad Beckerman from Abrams. Peek: "Our goal was to up the cuteness factor as well as remaining true to the story."

Author Spots for Schools is seeking authors. Author Spots are free mini-commercials created by children's authors that schools can broadcast to promote their book fair to kids and parents. From Jean Reidy: "Nothing fancy - just a 30 second to one minute webcam, YouTube video of a children's author giving a shout-out about his/her books along with a personalized promotion for a school book fair." Author Spots may be shown in morning video announcements, during library time, in the classrooms, at PTO meetings, at the school entrance, or loaded on the school's website...the possibilities are endless. Authors, join here.

Montgomery County (TX) Book Festival: official festival blog, featuring author interviews and more. Note: the festival will take place Feb. 2. See also the official Montgomery County Book Festival website, facebook page, and tweet deck.

This week the Ontario Library Association announced the nominees for their Forest of Reading Awards.  The awards in each age category are named for a different Canadian tree.  Winners will be chosen by child readers from participating schools and announced in May 2013 at the Festival of Trees, Canada's largest children's literary event. Note: Congratulations to Cynsations Canada reporter Lena Coakley, whose Witchlanders (Atheneum, 2011) is a White Pine Award nominee!

Why It's Okay to Know Your Theme Before You Start Writing by Amy Rose Capetta from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "I don’t mean the premise of the novel. I don’t mean the beginning or the ending or even what the main character wants. I mean what it is ABOUT. Capital ABOUT."

Cynsational Giveaways
The winner of a signed copy of Forget Me Not by Carolee Dean (Simon Pulse, Oct. 2012) is Simone in New Jersey, the winners of The Infects by Sean Beaudoin (Candlewick, 2012)(YA) are Lauren in North Carolina, Carl in Arizona, and Deena in New York, and the winners of On the Road to Mr. Mineo by Barbara O'Connor (FSG, 2012)(MG) are Holly in Ohio and Kayla in Louisiana.

This Week at Cynsations

For those who missed it, here's a peek at the trailer of Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith (Clarion, 2012); trailer produced by Owen Ziegler.



More Personally

Happy Teen Read Week! My publisher, Candlewick Press, is offering three free fiction samplers to celebrate. The highlighted books include my own Tantalize (Book One in the Tantalize series). If you'd like to get a taste of the series or if you missed the first installment, don't miss this chance!
Wow! I've reached 10,000+ followers on Twitter @CynLeitichSmith. If you haven't already (and don't get enough of me here), please feel free to join in the conversation.

Thank you to Dr. Kurtz and her students at Minot State University for a terrific conference call chat about graphic novels! Check out more resources on Tantalize: Kieren's Story (Candlewick, 2011).

Thank you to Jennifer Ziegler and co-panelists Jo Whittemore, Ernie Cline, and Jennifer Hill Robenalt for a great conversation on author PR and marketing at the Writers' League of Texas monthly meeting at BookPeople!

Oct. 20 is the National Day on Writing! Tweet #WhatIWrite on Oct. 19, and listen to my audio statement!

If you missed it, take a look at Greg's trailer for Chronal Engine.  It was created by Owen Ziegler, teenage son of Austin YA author Jennifer Ziegler. Please leave a comment cheering Owen for his efforts and encouraging him as he continues his creative efforts into the future.

My Halloween presents to myself! Who's a Wonder Woman and/or Buffy fan?

Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Greg Leitich Smith will be a featured author at Tweens Read Oct. 20 at Bobby Shaw Middle School, 1201 Houston Avenue, Pasadena, Texas and at the Texas Book Festival Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 at the state capitol building in Austin. See also Texas Book Festival 2012 Youth Literature Programming.

The Writing Barn (Austin) Presents 2013 Advanced Writing Workshops, featuring editor Alexandra Penfolds (January), YA author Sara Zarr (April), and Francisco X. Stork (November).  See details.

Catch up on news from the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels.



New Voice & Giveaway: Nikki Loftin on The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Nikki Loftin is the first-time author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (Razorbill, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Lorelei is bowled over by Splendid Academy--Principal Trapp encourages the students to run in the hallways, the classrooms are stocked with candy dishes, and the cafeteria serves lavish meals featuring all Lorelei's favorite foods. But the more time she spends at school, the more suspicious she becomes. 

Why are her classmates growing so chubby? And why do the teachers seem so sinister?

It's up to Lorelei and her new friend Andrew to figure out what secret this supposedly splendid school is hiding. What they discover chills their bones--and might even pick them clean!

Mix one part magic, one part mystery, and just a dash of Grimm, and you've got the recipe for a cozy-creepy read that kids will gobble up like candy. 

Could you tell us about your writing community-your critique group or partner or other sources of emotional and/or professional support?

“They will rue the day.”

This was the promise one of my best writer friends in the world whispered to me through years of querying and rejections.

“Don’t worry, Nikki,” Shelli would say, kindly unwrapping another chocolate bar for me and handing me a tissue. “In the not-too-distant future, they will look back on this day and rue it so hard.”

I agreed. “One day, they will cry and bite themselves. They will wonder how they could have been so short-sighted, so stupid, so ridiculously blind to my amazing talent.”

Okay, maybe I didn’t get quite that dramatic, but it was close.

It sounds silly now, but honestly, having a friend who believed in me that much, and who was willing to share the ups and downs as well as countless chocolate and latte-filled hours re-hashing rejections, re-reading manuscripts to find what was wrong, what was missing…?

Having her kept me going.

When I first started writing for publication – really going at it, hours every day, intent on my goal – I quickly learned that the solitariness of the writing life was going to make me mad. As in, death beetles ticking in the wall, body hidden under the floorboards, Edgar Allen Poe-mad.

So, to avoid that, I started reaching out to other fledgling writers. In addition to my friend Shelli (who I had known in my previous career), I found a handful of talented, unpublished YA and MG writers at our local SCBWI meetings and lured them to my house with the promise of homemade soup and cookies.

We laughed, we cried, we critiqued. We also went to local conferences, and met more writers.

Published ones, sometimes, who – even though they were busier than we could have imagined or known – took time to give advice, sit down for coffee or lunch, and invite us into their circle.

Then, when I got the offer from Penguin for a two-book deal, those published writers sat me down again and talked me through the potential pitfalls of the debut year, and so much more. What a blessing! (Even if some of the warnings gave me the screaming heebie jeebies.)

I know now that this isn’t the way it is for most writers. Most live in communities where there aren’t any published writer/mentors (or if there are, they’re hiding really well). I meet solitary writers often when I speak in different cities about queries and pitches, when I sign books and do readings. They know they need community. They crave it like I did.

So, since they can’t all move to Austin, I send them to the next best place for kidlit writers: Verla’s.

Verla Kay, picture book author and grande dame of the online kidlit community, has created a safe place online for writers to meet, chat, and ask the awkward questions, at any stage in the game. 

On the Blueboards, as the forum is called, you can meet agents, editors, famous writers and newbies – all on the same thread. I found critique partners there, and spent countless hours in the online “trench” – where writers hang out while they wait to hear back from agents or editors.

Knowing that there were so many other people in the world who cared deeply about children and children’s literature, and who were not just willing but eager to talk about those things?

It transformed my writing life. They became another family, of sorts.

(The sort who all agreed that someday, those editors would absolutely rue the day.)

Of course, if I didn’t mention my actual family, I would be remiss. (And also, I would never hear the end of it! My mom reads everything I publish.) My two sons, both middle grade-aged, serve as my first readers as well as listeners for the final copy-edit read-through. My patient husband listens for months as I think out loud about characters. When he reads, he’s appropriately proud and particular, helping me hone my work, while saying all the nice things that we insecure writers like to hear.

The rest of my family does their part, watching the kids while I do signings and book-related trips.

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?

Right now, as I write this, it is noon. I am in my pajamas. (I saved valuable work time by not getting dressed. Or, um, brushing my teeth. Hang on just a second. That may be taking it too far.)

My children are at school. I am not at their schools. Not volunteering for their art days, or their science labs, or eating special lunches with them. (Not that they would want me there, with the whole pajamas, no-brushed-hair look I’m sporting.) Learning to say no to the thousand phone calls and emails from the PTA and teachers was horrifically hard, but necessary.

Here’s why: when my kids come home from school, I like to be able to engage with them. Pester them about how their day was, ask who they played with at recess, fuss over their homework. I like to be a mom, not a writer, for a little while.

But if I volunteer all day, if I go have lunches with my friends (who call me, and taunt me with their lunch plans!), I would have to use that precious afternoon kid-time for writing.


(By the way, I do volunteer. But I do it in an intentional way – that feeds my need to foster early literacy, through the Reading is Fundamental program, where I give away books to kids in disadvantaged schools. I get to read and talk to kids about books, and that’s the only acceptable reason to interrupt the sacred writing hours, in my book. Everyone reading this? Donate to RIF!)

I watch almost no television. Don’t get me wrong; I like TV. But when it comes down to it, I can’t be a productive writer, promote my book, parent my kids, and keep up on the latest "Toddlers and Tiaras" and "Hoarders" episodes.

The view from Nikki's writing desk
So I pick my own kids over "Honey Boo Boo." And my own crazy characters over "Mad Men."

Advice for other parent/writers?

Teach your children how to cook.

If my children hadn’t learned how to feed themselves (and me), I don’t know if they would have survived the past few years.

Sometimes, the time crunch gets on top of a writer. Sometimes, you remember to pick the kids up at the bus stop, but forget to buy groceries. Cut yourself some slack. Then teach the little tykes how to make a decent omelet and spaghetti. Not only will they gain a valuable life skill, you will avoid the dozens of burnt casseroles, like the ones I used to accidentally incinerate every time I started drafting a new novel.

Learn to overlook the kids’ messes in the kitchen. I mean, really – who are you to judge? You’re still in your pajamas at 5 p.m., and probably didn’t remember to brush your teeth either. The kitchen is way down on the list.

And never forget: If you spend time cleaning the kitchen, when you could be playing with your kid, or writing a new scene?

You will absolutely rue that day.


Book Trailer - "The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy" from Dave Wilson on Vimeo.


Cynsational Notes

“A mesmerizing read...a fantasy that feels simultaneously classic and new.” —Publishers Weekly

“A pinch of Grimm, a dash of Greek mythology and a heaping helping of fresh chills make for an irresistible contemporary fairy tale…Deliciously scary and satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews

Cynsational Giveaway

Attention, teachers, librarians, and reading group coordinators! Enter to win a Sinister Sweetness Book Club Kit (10 copies, plus bookmarks and swag, plus a 30-minute Skype visit with Nikki)! Eligibility: North America. Note: please be sure to indicate the name of your reading group.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Trailer & Giveaway: Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith

Free tie-in activity kit
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Happy National Fossil Day!

Celebrate by entering to win one of five author-signed copies of Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Blake Henry (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2012)(ages 10-up). From the promotional copy:

When Max, Emma, and Kyle are sent to live with their reclusive grandfather for the summer, they’re dismayed to learn he thinks there’s a time machine in the basement.

But when Grandpa Pierson predicts the exact time of his own heart attack, and when Emma is kidnapped by what can only be a time traveler, they realize he was telling the truth about the Chronal Engine.  And if they want their sister back, they’ll have to do it themselves.

So Max and Kyle, together with their new friend Petra, pack up their grandpa’s VW and follow Emma and the kidnapper back in time, to Late Cretaceous Texas, where the sauropods and tyrannosaurs roam. 

Can the trio find Emma and survive the hazards of the Age of Dinosaurs, or are they, too, destined to become part of the fossil record?



Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America (U.S./Canada). Bonus entries for those who comment on the trailer and/or share it via blogs/social networks/list servs, etc. If you share, please detail your efforts (with relevant links) in a comment. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Cynsational Notes

Chronal Engine video teaser by Owen Ziegler, teenage son of author Jennifer Ziegler, of Austin, Texas.

Chronal Engine is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Check out the free online Chronal Engine Activity Kit. See also Greg Leitich Smith on How to Plan a Launch Party with pics from the Chronal Engine launch.

Visit Greg Leitich Smith
“Who has time to be indulging in a lot of teen angst when you’re running from a T. rex? The short length, breathless pace, and graphic-novel-esque, full-page illustrations might make this one appealing to reluctant readers.” – School Library Journal

“[T]his is exactly the book young dino fans would write themselves, crammed with sandbox-style action and positively packed with words like Nanotyrannus and Parasaurolophus. Great back matter clarifies fact from speculation, while Henry’s manga-inspired illustrations provide a good sense of the monsters’ scary scale.” – Booklist

“Dinosaurs, time travel, mystery and adventure—this novel for teens has it all…The characters are believable and likable, and the story carries itself quickly along. Black and white illustrations effectively give the reader a nice visual of the happenings as well.”  – Children’s Literature

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest Post: Shana Burg on Take the Crowd by the Horns

Shana speaks to students.
By Shana Burg
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

You’ve worked hard to figure out how to impart words of wisdom about the writing process to a classroom of students.

You’ve spent hours designing creative activities and snazzy graphics that will captivate young minds.

You feel prepared—heck, over-prepared—to speak to a classroom, or gym full of kids, but you’ve forgotten one thing: You’d better be carrying a host of behavior management strategies with you along with everything else.

There are levels of rudeness you experience as a teacher and presenter: There are the girls who braid each other’s hair as you speak, the student who reads a book while you talk—implying that it is far better than yours, and the teens who won’t stop cracking up at their own jokes. And then, my favorite, the teachers—yes, teachers—who won’t get off their cell phones.

Through years of teaching middle school, author visits, and a day job that requires me to present to thousands of students of all ages each year, I’ve developed strategies that help me minimize distractions and take the crowd by the thorns:

Learn more.
1. Venue matters. Set yourself up for success by arranging to present in the best possible setting. Usually, this means the auditorium. Beware the dreaded cafetorium, as students are used to chatting with friends and tossing French fries there.

But if you must present in a cafeteria, ask that the tables be turned (literally, not figuratively), so that students are facing you and not facing each other.

A gym is usually my last choice, because of poor acoustics and post-traumatic stress from P.E. during my own middle school years. However, if you need to present in a gym, plan to do a whole lot of movement to keep attention from one end of the bleachers down to the other.

In general, students do much better sitting in chairs than on the floor where they can fiddle.

2. Discuss expectations prior to your arrival. When arranging your presentation, be sure to mention that teachers should discuss behavior expectations with students prior to your arrival and, extremely important, teachers must plan to remain with classes during your visit.

I once presented to 300 eighth graders in a cafeteria first thing in the morning, and suddenly realized that there wasn’t one teacher in the room with me—turns out the principal had used the opportunity of my presence to call a staff meeting at that time. If I’d realized this before I started, I would have said I can’t do the presentation until staff returns.

3. Use a microphone. Even if you’re addressing a small crowd or have a loud voice, there’s something about the projection of a microphone that demands attention. I always turn up the volume just a bit louder than I feel is necessary. I prefer to have a handheld device rather than wear one on my lapel, so that I can better engage students. Students always get a kick out of saying their answers to my questions directly into the mic.

Request a wireless handheld mic, or a handheld mic with a very long cord, so that you can mingle with the crowd.

4. Establish behavior expectations with your audience. Tell your audience that you want to keep the classroom or auditorium a place where everyone can see and hear. All cell phones must be turned off.

And for elementary and middle school students, you can have a signal for quiet. For example, “When I put my hand on my head like this, I want you to also put your hand on your head and stop talking. Now let’s practice that. Everyone talk to your neighbor…”

5. Communicate your enthusiasm! Let students know that you are super excited to be with them. They will respond to your excitement. Anyone who teaches knows that young people pick up on our vibes. If we’re having a bad day and faking joy, they’re going to be moping too.

Find a way to give a genuine smile and let them feel your true passion for the subject.

Learn more.
6. Abandon the script. If you try to memorize what you want to say and stick with it at all costs, students may rebel against the contrivance. Instead, remember, what’s most important is the energy behind your words and not the words themselves. Honestly.

This is the single most important piece of advice that I have. Be genuine. Tell a joke. Insert something about the fire ant bites on your foot. Go off the cuff here and there.

They will know you are keeping it real, and you will reap the rewards.

7. Interact—or Don’t. It takes skill to interact with a tough audience, because you risk the wise guys taking advantage of the opportunity to show off.

That said, I always prefer an interactive presentation—one in which learning is a two-way street between the students and me.

These days, I size up my audience within the first few minutes, and if I think I can keep them on course, I make my presentation as interactive as I can. But if I feel they are a particularly rowdy bunch, then I limit the number of questions that I ask.

8. Body language. This is huge—especially for students in grades K-7. You will do well to be more dramatic than you think you should be.

Don’t be afraid to gesture wildly with your hands, and when in a large space, move all around it!

If students are talking or engaging in other sorts of distracting behavior, stand right next to them—and I do mean right next to them—as you continue talking. If they don’t stop what they’re doing, you stop talking and just stare for a moment or two, and I guarantee the distracting chuckles will melt away like ice cream on a summer day.

9. Call attention. Work the distracting behavior into your talk. To take an extreme example, the presentation I do for my day job requires me to show a short film in the middle of the assembly.

One time, just before I turned on the video, I noticed that two high school students were, shall I say, rounding the bases in the middle of the auditorium.

All other strategies had failed, so I said, “We will now be watching a five-minute film. I need everyone’s eyes up here, and no making out during the show!”

I turned on the video and went to relax in an empty seat directly behind the loving couple. That finally did the trick.

Visit Shana Burg.
10. Stop everything. If you’ve tried moving closer and you’ve tried your quiet signs to no avail, the next step is to stop and say, “I won’t speak over others. I’ll let you get control of yourselves and then I’ll be happy to continue.”

Then just smile at the principal or librarian, and wait for students and faculty to figure out what to do.

If there’s a child with an extreme behavior issue who needs to be removed from the scene, I guarantee some adults will swoop in, remove the offender, and save the day.

There is no rush like the one I get from a meeting of the minds with young people. There is no exhilaration greater than the one I get from knowing we’ve truly connected.

The more I use these tools, the more confident I feel walking into a cafetorium of 300 eighth graders. I hope they’re useful for you.

Cynsational Notes

Shana Burg is the award-winning author of Laugh with the Moon (Random House, 2012) and A Thousand Never Evers (Random House, 2008).

Central Texans: check out Shana’s panel discussion about creating powerful settings at the Texas Book Festival from 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Oct. 28. Signing to follow the discussion. Panel also features Avi and Karen Cushman, moderated by Barbara Immroth.

See also Shana Burg on her new release, Laugh with the Moon (Delacorte, 2012), from Cynsations. Peek: "Soon I found myself in the middle of the Malawian bush in a Land Rover next to Norman, my driver and translator, who quickly became a good friend. Each school day for three weeks, Norman and I traveled to different primary schools, where I spoke with hundreds of teachers, parents, students, and school administrators."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Candlewick Celebrates Teen Read Week with Tantalize & More

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Happy Teen Read Week! My publisher, Candlewick Press, is offering three free fiction samplers to celebrate. The highlighted books include my own Tantalize (Book One in the Tantalize series). If you'd like to get a taste of the series or if you missed the first installment, don't miss this chance!


Check out the Angels, Vampires, and Zombies Sampler, featuring The Infects by Sean Beaudoin; Tantalize (Book One in the Tantalize series) by Cynthia Leitich Smith; and Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly. In the alternative, see epub format.


Check out the Fantasy Sampler, featuring Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta; The Naming: The First Book of Pellinor by Alison Croggon; and A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan. In the alternative, see epub format.


Check out the Mixed YA Fiction Sampler, featuring: Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald; Stork by Wendy Delsol; and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. In the alternative, see epub format.

Cynsational Notes

Check out curriculum tie-ins for the Tantalize series, created by the Texas Library Association.

I'm happy to announce that I've passed the 10,000-followers mark on Twitter. Thanks to all of you tweeters out there! If you haven't already, come join me @CynLeitichSmith.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Guest Post: Joan Schoettler on Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth

Copyright Jessica Lanen, Shen's Books, used with permission.
By Joan Schoettler
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Love and determination are driving components in Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth, illustrated by Jessica Lanen (Shen's, 2011), as Ju-su, a ten-year-old girl, follows her dream. Ji-su’s mother has been chosen by the Korean King to be a seamstress at the palace.

It is an honor to be chosen, but for Ji-su it means saying goodbye to her mother. Ji-su decides she will learn to make bojagi or wrapping cloths as well as her mother so she can be chosen to join her.

So where does a writer who is not Korean, who has never been to Korea, and who has never studied Korean history come up with a story set in an unfamiliar country, with an unrecognized art form, and in a unexplored cultural framework?

Little did I know, the day I strolled into the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and climbed the wide marble staircase to the Korean art display, how my world would open and all things Korean would draw me toward them. Bojagi, or Korean wrapping cloths, hung on walls and in clear, freestanding display cases. These unique abstract works of art are often compared to Klee‘s modern art. But the initial stitch for the story goes back much further than the exhibit I studied. It began hundreds of years ago with women who designed and sewed these works of art as I learned when I began my research for Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth.

Toward the end of the bojagi exhibit, a contemporary bojagi created by Chunghie Lee, a world-renowned fiber artist, caught my eye. She had silk-screened old photographs of unnamed women onto the bojagi. Chunghie Lee dedicated it to all the anonymous women who spent tireless hours sewing wrapping cloths for utilitarian purposes in their homes and in palaces for the wealthy to store and wrap their treasures. The unknown women, the colors, designs, and intricate stitches invited closer examination, and as I did so, the first thread of a children’s picture book held fast.

Copyright Jessica Lanen, Shen's Books, used with permission.
Bojagi are cloth wrappers made to protect as well as to decorate their contents. The cloths are used to cover precious items, beds, tables and food items. The wrappers are square and rectangular and can be folded for compact storage in small living spaces of Korean homes. There are as many kinds of wrapping cloths as there are types of objects to be wrapped.

In King Yongjo’s palace in the late 1700’s, there were 273 different uses for bojagi, so the need to have women seamstresses employed in the king’s court was great. These wrappers have decorative, religious, and symbolic uses as well. The most treasured cloths are preserved as family heirlooms.


Making bojagi is a folk art practiced by women from all social classes during the Chosun Dynasty. During this period of Confucian social structure, women’s lives were restricted to their homes. Needlework became an opportunity for creative expression and to overcome the monotony among all classes. Girls were taught to sew at a young age.


It is a folk belief that when women stitched the bojagi they stitched blessing of good health, happiness, and good fortune into the bojagi. These unspoken gifts were bestowed on the receiver of the wrapping cloth.

Copyright Jessica Lanen, Shen's Books, used with permission.
A writer spends much time creating in an imaginary world, but for me, my writing also opens my world in many unexpected ways. When I first contacted Chunghie Lee, I had no idea how well known this fiber artist was, yet she responded to my emails, edited my manuscript for Korean accuracy, and took time to share her edits.

Our first meeting was at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco where Chunghie Lee curated an exhibit, "Bojagi and Beyond." Curators at the Asian Pacific Museum in Pasadena and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, a Korean scholar and publisher, as well as Korean people in Fresno shared their expertise and opened their homes to me, too.

When Renee Ting, editor at Shen’s Books, offered a contract, another stitch was added and good fortune for Ji-su’s story continued. This story, set in Korea in the 1700’s, was a perfect fit for Shen’s multicultural emphasis.

When I received the offer to work with Renee, she said she liked the story but she wanted about1600 words. I had already cut, pared the story down and dropped scenes I loved. But I learned to highlight and hit that delete button, tighten, and eliminate any unnecessary words.

With comments, insights, and suggestions from my critique group, and more time revising, Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth, moved into the reality of becoming a book.

Visit Joan Schoettler
The most colorful stitch began with Jessica Lanan, my illustrator. My editor chose a talented, research driven, and wonderfully creative artist. Jessica brought her prior knowledge, life experiences, and creativity to the page, expanding the characters through her attention to detail.

Her research of the Korean culture, bojagi, and Korean family life is revealed through her illustrations. Jessica brought much to this story, and for that, I am very grateful.

Quilts and cloths used for wrapping can be found in many other cultures. Books with common threads allow readers to see the universality of people through the world.

Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth opened new horizons for me. Ji-su invited me to revisit the importance of family, the hard work determination requires, and the joy of following my dream.

Cynsational Notes

From Joan: "The bojagi are from the collection at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco."
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