Friday, April 05, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

More on In Honor (Simon & Schuster)
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Cover Stories: In Honor by Jessi Kirby (Simon & Schuster, 2012) from Melissa Walker. Peek: "The art department actually went back in and put a set of dog tags dangling from Honor’s hand, which I thought was subtle and just perfect."

Respecting Your Process by Therese Walsh from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I’m a pantser by nature, but after the protracted process with my first book–the complete rewrite, the significant revisions on top of that–I developed a serious case of plotter envy."

Cynsational Author Tip: List the name of your publishing company on any book marketing materials, online or off. If the imprint isn't well known, list it along with the name of the main line. Notes: (1) This is important for credibility, marketing-event support and customer orders. (2) Bloggers, this is also useful information for your readers. (3) Ideally, you should list title, author, illustrator (if applicable), publishing house, and year of publication.

Goodreads Pledges to Remain "Independent Entity" by Lisa Campbell from The Bookseller. Peek: "Book recommendation website Goodreads has pledged to remain an 'independent entity', after the social media website agreed to its sale to on Thursday (28th March) ahead of the long Easter weekend."

The Rich in Color Blog: a new blog "dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult fiction starring people of color or written by people of color."

Physical Attributes Entry: Faces by Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse. Peek: "One way to balance the showing and telling of physical description is to showcase a few details that really help 'tell the story' about who your character is and what they've been through up to this point." See also Becca on Communication Breakdown in Dialogue.

Two Boys Kissing (Random House)
A New Way for Gay Characters in YA by Jen Doll from The Atlantic Wire. Peek: "In these new books, being gay or bi or lesbian or transgendered is wrapped up in conversations of identity that often transcend sexuality, and ask what happens beyond acknowledgment, coming out, and even generalized acceptance of one's choices."

Cart Before the Horse in Queries by Mary Kole from Peek: "When you look at the sheer number of things that get published every year, a much smaller percentage goes on to merchandising opportunities, movie options, video game licenses, and all of the other things that some aspiring writers dream about."

Cloud Storage for Writers: Comparison & Caveats by Carolyn Kaufman from Peek: "...most writers back up their writing in some way—some keep a copy of things on a flash drive, for example, while others regularly email their manuscripts to themselves. But these days there’s an additional alternative called cloud storage, which refers to online file storage."

Back to the Beginning; Ways to Begin a Story by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog. Peek: "Elmore Leonard says he begins with dialogue. He needs to hear his characters talking. Then he kills off the ones who don’t have interesting things to say."

Author Insight: Branching Out Vs. Branding from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "How big a role do feel being a diverse writer plays in an author staying in the publishing industry given the uncertain climate? Do you feel pressured to branch out?" Note: 13 authors chime in.

The Holocaust: Rescue and Resistance by Rachel Kamin from School Library Journal. Peek: "...these stories of resistance, rescue, courage, ingenuity, and survival are a beacon of light amid the dark horrors of the Holocaust. They inspire today’s readers to live by Helmuth Hubener’s words in The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti: 'I don’t want to remember a time I could have done something but didn’t.'"

Industry Q&A with HarperCollins Editor Rosemary Brosnan by Caroline Sun from CBC Diversity. Peek: "I’ve seen strong efforts to sell diverse books that are sometimes met with low sales—and I’m thinking of Spanish-language and bilingual books in particular. It’s likely that publishers don’t quite know how to reach the market. But perhaps people who want publishers to publish more diverse books should make a commitment to buy the books."

Winners of the Bangkok Book Award by Tarie Sabido from Asia on the Heart, World on the Mind. Peek: "To celebrate Bangkok, Thailand being the 2013 UNESCO World Book Capital, some international schools organized the Bangkok Book Awards."

Exploring the New Adult Genre: A Q&A with Angela James (Executive Editor at Carina Press) and Margo Lipschultz (Editor at Harlequin HQN) from Harlequin. Peek: "...a genre that fills the gap between YA and contemporary romance. NA stories revolve around college- or just-post-college-age characters (18-25ish), characters that are experiencing some kind of monumental first—first love, first time away from home or first real job, first sense of adult responsibility."

Advice for Writers at Different Stages of the Journey by C.J. Skuse from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. Peek: " probably will get huffy at first when someone takes their red pen and puts multiple stab wounds through your masterpiece. But I’m telling you, it will be so much better once it’s gone through the process."

National Poetry Month: Krissi Dallas: Torturing Confessions Out of Poetry from E.K. Anderson at Write All the Words! Peek: "I was going to make Poetry my best friend and, by extension, the most popular kid in my classes. Here’s how I did it...."

An Interview with National Book Award Winner, Inkie Will Alexander by Nancy Holder from The Enchanted Inkpot. Peek: "I get to feel like an author rather than someone indulging in a goblin-haunted hobby. This is a tremendous relief."

This Week at Cynsations
Cynsational Giveaways

Christina in Dollard-des-Ormeaux is the winner of Unraveled by S.X. Bradley.

Tiffany in Georgia is the winner of Greenhorn by Anna Olswanger.

See also Giveaway: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty from Jen Bigheart at I Read Banned Books.

More Personally

Hooray! I'm closing in on my revision of Feral Curse (Book 2 in the Feral series) for my brilliant Candlewick editor. This weekend, you can think of me, making notes as Greg Leitich Smith reads it aloud in our parlor.

At this stage of the process, I've re-read the story silently so many times that hearing it more slowly, in someone else's voice is the only way to get a global view and catch typos my eye would otherwise glaze over. I have more keying in to do first, but I'm happy about my progress.

Through this revision, I've clarified the fantasy element, heightened the presence of an echo antagonist, built up a personality dynamic in one of the co-protagonists, and planted heartier seeds for book 3. I've also added more texture, sensory details, and a few brushstrokes of setting.

VCFA reception with Varian Johnson, Sean Petrie, Meredith Davis, Mary Welz, Bethany Hegedus, M.T. Anderson, April Lurie, Debbie Dunn & more. Photo courtesy of The Writing Barn.
At the VCFA reception with author-alum Varian Johnson. Photo courtesy of The Writing Barn.
With Catey Gonzales at the VCFA Novel Writing Retreat!
Tulips for Easter on my kitchen island

Visit Greg online!
Personal Links
From Greg Leitich Smith
Cynsational Events

Authors/Speakers at TLA 2013 from April 24 to April 27 in Fort Worth from the Texas Library Association. Look for Cynthia Leitich Smith's signing and Spirit of Texas High School author panel. See also the Itsy Bitsy Gallery to "take a chance on art at the TLA 2013 raffle" to benefit the Texas Library Disaster Relief Fund. Note: featuring an original illustration by Tom Shefelman from I, Vivali by Janice Shefelman (Eerdman's).

YA lit readers! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith at 6:30 p.m. May 25 at Round Rock Public Library.

Join Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith at 11 a.m. June 11 at Lampasas (TX) Public Library.

Join authors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Nancy Werlin and ICM Partners literary agent Tina Wexler at a Whole Novel Workshop from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10, sponsored by the Highlights Foundation. Peek: "Our aim is to focus on a specific work in progress, moving a novel to the next level in preparation for submission to agents or publishers. Focused attention in an intimate setting makes this mentorship program one that guarantees significant progress." Special guests: Curtis Brown agent Sarah LaPolla, authors Bethany Hegedus and Amy Rose Capetta.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Book Trailer: Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever -- or Snack Time?

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever -- Or Snack Time? by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Michael Slack (Harcourt, 2013). From the promotional copy:

In the deep ocean, tiny Nugget and big, toothy Fang get along swimmingly—until Nugget's first day of minnow school. There Nugget learns that minnows are supposed to be afraid of sharks! 

To regain Nugget's trust, Fang takes desperate (and hilarious) measures. But it's not until his big sharp teeth save the entire school that minnows learn this shark is no foe. 

Fantastically stylized artwork adds even more humor to this undersea story of unlikely friendship.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

New Voice: Nicole McInnes on Brianna on the Brink

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Nicole McInnes is the first-time author of Brianna on the Brink (Holiday House, 2013)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

Sixteen-year-old Brianna Taylor finds herself lost, alone and with a major surprise in store after a one-night-stand. 

Just when she’s got nowhere left to turn, help arrives from the one person who is closest to her big mistake, but accepting that help will leave Brianna forced to choose between clinging to the ledge of fear and abandonment – or jumping into the unknown where a second chance at hope might just be waiting.

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach "edgy" behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

Since my novel deals with the consequences of a teen girl’s reckless one-night stand, I definitely felt the need to set the bar to “edgy” and then to vault over that bar. I knew I wasn’t writing for a middle grade audience, but I wasn’t quite writing for adults, either. So, there was this balancing act of approaching the subject of sex in a realistic but not gratuitous way.

Ultimately, I decided that the way to do this was to just be as straightforward as possible about the thoughts, feelings, reactions and plans (or lack thereof) that so often surround teen sexuality. For me, this was the right way to go, and reader reactions seem to indicate that these elements come across as realistic and not just there for shock value.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Promotion has been a fun, if somewhat daunting, process for my debut novel. There’s a bit of a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” mentality that I think many debut authors have, and this is fine. How else is one supposed to figure out what does and doesn’t work?

For Brianna on the Brink, I’ve been focusing my efforts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and my own website. The ideas come either from the mother wit or from researching like mad.

Cynsations has actually been a great resource for me this year. I try to keep promotion from feeling like a chore by treating it as a kind of play. It’s my time to interact with other readers and writers, and to find out what books are being talked about at any given moment.

My advice to other debut authors is twofold: First, put your promotional energy toward things that come naturally and that you find enjoyable. Second, push the envelope and your comfort zone a little, even if a particular avenue seems daunting. Afraid of Twitter? Try it for a while! Give it a chance, and see what fun it can be.

For the record, I was one of those “I just don’t get it” people when it came to Twitter. I just didn’t see the point. Now, it’s my favorite way to interact online.

Cynsational Notes

Nicole says: "Here is a picture of Hermie the Magnificent, AKA Hermie the Fierce (as if - she might drown an unsuspecting burglar in enthusiastic drool, but that would be the extent of her ferocity). She is the president (and sole member) of the Official Nicole McInnes Adoration Club. Every author should be so lucky."

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children's Day, Book Day

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith,
Día Author Ambassador,
for Cynsations

El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children's Day, Book Day is April 30 and every day of the year.

Find ideas from bookjoy!
Día means “day” in Spanish. In 1996, author Pat Mora learned about the Mexican tradition of celebrating April 30 as El día del niño, the day of the child.

Pat thought, “We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Yes! We need kids’ day too, but I want to connect all children with bookjoy, the pleasure of reading.”

Pat was enthusiastically assisted to start this community-based, family literacy initiative by REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking. El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children's Day, Book Day, now known as Día, is a daily commitment to link all children to books, languages and cultures, day by day, día por día.

Día is now housed at the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. Every year, across the country, libraries, schools, and community organizations, etc. plan culminating book fiestas creating April Día celebrations that unite communities. Join us!

Cynsational Notes

Attn Authors & Illustrators: become a Día ambassador and add a badge to your blog/website.

By Jeanette Larson for ALSC, learn more.
Check out the Día FAQ, articles and interviews, song, advocates and history. Don't miss this archive of Día ideas. Peek: "Is Día only for Latinos? No, planners of Día events translate the words 'Children’s Day/Book Day' into the home languages in their community. As the librarians at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library say, “DÍA = Diversity in Action."

Over at ALSC, find a Día program in your area, register a 2013 program, and download a Día family toolkit, download and print this free poster to publicize an event in your community. Or you can purchase a Many Children, Many Cultures, Many Books! poster and bookmarks.

See also the Día: Diversity in Action Book List and Book List Addendum (PDFs).

The Estela and Raúl Mora Award was established in 2000 by author Pat Mora and her family to honor their parents and to motivate libraries to celebrate Día. See information about the award, a list of previous winners, and award guidelines.

Monday, April 01, 2013

New Voice: Joe Lawlor on

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Joe Lawlor is the first-time author of (Eerdmans, 2013). From the promotional copy:

Jun never wanted to be a detective. He’s a shy kid, better at interfacing with PCs than people. 

But his world turns upside down when the principal accuses him of posting pictures on the school's website that expose the eating disorder of one of his classmates. 

To prove his innocence, Jun has seven days to track down the true cyber bully.

Jun's investigation will bring him face-to face with computer hackers, a jealous boyfriend, and more than one student who has been a victim of bullying. 

He discovers along the way that everyone's story is more complicated than it seems -- and that the people he meets have more in common than they think.

How do you psyche yourself up to write, to keep writing, and to do the revision necessary to bring your manuscript to a competitive level?

I wake up every weekday morning at five, take a shower, and then write for at least one hour. This has been my habit for nearly ten years. Sounds torturous, I know, but I’m a morning person and my brain is at its creative best before the pressures of the day intrude.

I have tried to psyche myself up for additional writing throughout the day, but much like planned trips to the gym, these good intentions often get rescheduled, bumped, or more likely, canceled. The 5 a.m. writing time is sacred. It is not a conscious choice; it is merely a part of my daily routine.

I would not go to bed without brushing my teeth and I would not wake up without writing for at least an hour.

An hour is not really enough, and yet I have found that the cumulative effect of writing every morning yields better results than waiting for that miraculous day when I have an extended block of free time. To be fair, on the weekends, I do write for several hours. Often, I look up from my screen to discover that it’s lunch time and I’m still in my pajamas.

However, I strongly believe that it is the rigidness of my weekday writing that allows me to indulge on the weekends. Monday through Friday is my bread and butter. Weekends are dessert.

What, for you, are the special challenges in achieving this goal? What techniques have worked best and why?

Two challenges encroach on successful writing sessions. First, I’m less of a writer and more of a rewriter. Beautiful, electric, engaging prose does not flow freely from my brain. It’s a long, labored process of rewriting, reshaping, re-everything.

First drafts are messy and often incoherent. And yet, I continue to plow ahead because each morning I give myself permission to write badly.

After a disappointing writing session, I am often reminded of the Tim Burton movie, Ed Wood. Mr. Wood is widely considered the worst movie director of all time. In one scene, he is speaking on the phone with Mr. Feldman at Warner Brothers studios. Ed Wood says, “So – we gonna be working together [pauses to listen] Really? Worst movie you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.”

It’s probably not a good idea to derive inspiration from the infamous director of Plan 9 from Outer Space, and yet, this quote shows Mr. Wood’s relentlessly optimistic belief in the creative process. This is my mantra as well. Every morning, when I stare down at prose that feels flat or derivative or simply uninspired, I tell myself, that tomorrow will be better. And usually it is.


The second major challenge is my 18-month-old son, Sam. Like his father, Sam is an early riser. Not that I don’t cherish every moment with my beautiful son, but the mornings are mine, mine, mine! At least, they used to be.

Now I must share my writing time with my son. When I should be creating, I find myself cradling. When I should be composing prose, I find myself singing silly songs.

These days, when I sit in front of my computer, I have no idea how much time I will have before I hear his waking wails.

Because of this, I am an efficient solider in the mornings. No time for dozing on my palm. No time for gazing out the window, searching for inspiration. I get right to work, feeling blessed for every extra minute Sam allows.

As a teacher-author, how do your two identities inform one another? What about being a teacher has been a blessing to your writing? 

 I have worked as a sixth grade Language Arts teacher for over ten years and I’m proud to say I love the job. Sixth graders are energetic, silly, and sharper than one might expect.

The job also allows me an opportunity to spy on my target audience. I am the constant observer, making mental notes about dialogue, mannerisms, clothing, and actions.

To say that my job is a well of inspiration is not accurate. It’s more like Old Faithful, gushing with ideas on a regular and repeating basis. Just under a hundred kids pass through my classroom daily and they’re all toting independent reading books. This provides me with a window into what’s popular with my target age group without ever having to step inside a bookstore.

Often, while I’m winding my way around the desks, I’ll stop to browse a book lying beside a student’s elbow. Each new class brings a fresh set of books to explore. It’s like a library that rotates inventory every 42 minutes! And you should hear the recommendations.

My students are often bursting with enthusiastic praise. Sample conversation:

Student: Mr. Lawlor, you have to read this. It’s the best book I ever read.

Me: You said that last week about another book.

Student: Yes, but this time I really, really mean it.

Me: (examining the cover) More post-apocalyptic fiction?

Student: But there’s no vampires this time. You're gonna love it!

As illustrated above, the current trend for kids is end-of-the-world fiction. However, the important thing to remember is that at this age level, emotions are heightened. I see this happen daily in the hallways and the cafeteria. A nasty text from a friend is the end of the world for a thirteen-year-old. The real challenge as an author is to accurately recreate those feelings on the page. Only when I pluck the correct emotional strings, do the characters truly resonate with this age group.

My best advice for aspiring authors is to hang around kids. Drink in their insecurities, their energy, and their silly sense of humor. More often than not, you’ll walk away with a great deal of new ideas and a big, goofy grin on your face.

Finally, don’t underestimate your audience. Kids today are surrounded by stories, whether they encounter them through video games, TV shows, graphic novels, web series, or on their e-readers. They may not be able to accurately name the stages of a plot map, but they know a good story when they read one. They can grasp sophisticated plotlines and grapple with complex character emotions.

Often when I write, I ask myself—is this idea too advanced for my audience? Once I picture the kids I teach, and the books they love, I realize the answer is no. They can handle the tough stuff. They like it. They gravitate toward it. Kids would rather stretch to understand a new concept than read a book that talks down to them.

Overall, kids are a surprisingly sharp audience that appreciates a well-told story just as much as the adults who write them.

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