Friday, May 03, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Ask a Million Questions: Worldbuilding by Kristin Bailey from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing. Peek: "I started out writing science fiction and fantasy because there is nothing more challenging and fun that creating an entire world from scratch. I found the key to good world building is to ask a million questions. When starting from scratch, you have to question everything."

What's the Right Tone for Your Query Letter? by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor.com. Peek: "Aim for a 'relaxed professional' tone for your fiction query, which is more like flap copy than a letter to your banker."

The Only Book in the House by Joseph Bruchac from Lee & Low. Peek: "It’s been my good fortune to be able to frequently visit schools on Indian reservations and in inner cities. There, rather than having a home full of books, children’s own first book may be the only one in the house."

The 11th annual Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop: a whole-novel seminar from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6 near Santa Cruz, California, for 16 advanced/published writers. Offering partial or full novel critique(s), in written and open-clinic format by Regina Griffin (executive editor, Egmont USA) and Fiona Kenshole (agent, Transatlantic Agency; former executive editor). Plus, one more agent TBA. Workshop alum, Annemarie O'’Brien (author of Lara'’s Gift (2013), will do additional critiques and speak on working with an editor and/or agent. Other faculty topics include revision techniques, inline editing, and adapting cinematic techniques to your fiction. See also information on the concurrent TeenSpeak Novel Workshop. The adults’ early-bird fee: $769 through May 20. (Teens: $499 through late June.) Includes three nights’ beachfront townhouse lodging and most meals; critiques additional. Application deadline: June 20, but inquire ahead to complete materials. Final manuscript submissions due: June 28, with possible extensions throughout summer. Open until filled. Apply early to hold your space.

Recipients of the 2013 Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards have been announced by the Jane Addams Peace Association. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Nancy Paulsen) is the winner in the Books for Younger Children Category and We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree) is the winner in the Books for Older Children category.

Play Ball! A Look at Recent Baseball Books from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "Given the release of '42,' the story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, we feature a couple of books about the legendary star and others."

From Blogging to Books: A Tour of Children's-YA Lit Book Bloggers Who Went Onto Publish Books by Elizabeth Bird from School Library Journal. Peek: "I got to thinking about others in my field who have followed similar paths from blogging to book publication. The successes, if you will. With that in mind, here are some names that come immediately to mind..."

Some Facebook Hints for Authors by Janet S. Fox from Through the Wardrobe. Peek: "...step one: create an Author Page. Go to Account Settings (upper right corner, the flywheel) and at the bottom of the page that opens next is a link to 'Create Page.' That will get you started."

Author Insight: Creating Characters from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "When you conceptualize a character does personality or physicality come first or does a complete person instantly form?"

Editorial: Everybody Wants to Be a Teenager by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: "While I’m firmly in favor of the right of people of any age to read up, down, or sideways as they choose, here at the Horn Book we like to think there is a bright line between publishing for adults and publishing for kids, defined as people of an age between birth and high school graduation."

Degrees of Boundary Busters by Kristi Holl from Writers' First Aid. Peek: "To be honest, the major boundary busters–often dubbed 'abusers'–are the easiest to spot (especially in someone else’s life.) Harder to detect are those 'minor' boundary invaders who look quite normal."

Good Morning World by Paul Windsor: a recommendation by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Teachers and librarians will get a lot of mileage out of this book!" See also Navajo Nation's First Poet Laureate: Luci Tapahonso, also from AICL.

Uncertainty: The Normal Writing Process by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "It’s helpful to embrace uncertainty in the writing process, to just write and see what happens."

Picking the Right Time by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "Whenever you interrupt the flow of dialogue, you best have a good reason."

Historical Fiction for Girls by Katrina Hedeen from The Horn Book. Peek: "Strong-willed, memorable female protagonists are the stars of these historical novels for middle-grade and middle-school readers. A small gold-mining town in Alaska; early-twentieth-century San Francisco; 1870s rural Wisconsin; and Reconstruction Louisiana provide the backdrops for their entertaining adventures."

National Picture Book Writing Week from Paula Yoo at Write Like You Mean It. Guest bloggers include: Varsha Bajaj, Katie Davis, and Lauri Meyers.

SingTel Asian Picture Book Award: "The National Book Development Council of Singapore is delighted to announce the inaugural SingTel Asian Picture Book Award. Beginning in 2013, the award will be presented annually for an outstanding unpublished picture book with a distinctly Asian theme." See link for short lists. See also the Asian Festival of Children's Content. Source: Cynsations Asia & Aus-NZ reporter Christopher Cheng.

The Edgar Award Winners from The Mystery Writers of America. Juvenile: The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Abrams/Amulet Books); Young Adult: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion). See honor books.

Cynsational Giveaways
The winners of Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden and tie-in T-shirts were Jenn in Wyoming and Christine in Ontario.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Great news! My 2013 YA releases, Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series) and Eternal: Zachary's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle (a graphic novel from the Tantalize series), are now available from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand. See more information!

Congratulations to my pal Varsha Bajaj of Houston on the sale of Our Baby, a celebration of an elephant's birth, to Nancy Paulsen at Nancy Paulsen Books, in a two-book deal, by Jill Corcoran at The Herman Agency.

Personal Links
Cynsational Events 


Central Texans! Come celebrate the release of Mary Sullivan's new picture book, Ball (Houghton Mifflin), from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. May 4 at The Writing Barn in Austin. With a book sale by BookPeople, donations for Austin Pet's Alive, and music by Mr. Mark of Rockapoodle, it'll be a great event for adults and kids alike.

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, May 02, 2013

Style & Story: How “What Not to Wear” Teaches About Writing

Advice for ladies and gentlemen.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

“What Not to Wear,” starring Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, is a reality TV show in its tenth and final season on TLC.

The focus of the makeovers is as much about celebrating the contributors as it is helping them to evaluate, reconfigure and embrace their best-fit personal style.

Stacy and Clinton offer insights that apply not only to why a pencil skirt might work on your body but also why you deserve to look and feel your best.

The hosts are witty, adorable, thoughtful and upbeat.

Yes, they have a serious hate on for “mom jeans,” but they love what they do, they’re great at it, and their enthusiasm is infectious. What's more, hairstylist Ted Gibson and makeup artist Carmindy are likewise spot-on terrific -- sharing insights, encouragement and helpful tips.

For my pals the U.K., I’ve never seen that version of the show, but I’m under the impression that the U.S. version is less caustic. Likewise, when I talk to friends here about WNTW, many are under the impression (from the title, I think), that the ambush and (literal) trashing of the "before" wardrobe are the whole point. They're not. Among other things, contributors are given $5000 to purchase a replacement wardrobe (and wouldn't most people living on a writer's income love that?).

Clinton and Stacy keep their critiques about the clothes, not the contributor, and they make an effort to help select new outfits that make sense for the individual's personality, goals, shape and lifestyle. What's more, they teach her how to do the same on her own.

Even better, their definitions of "beauty" and style are inclusive. Nobody's asked to go on a diet, embark on an exercise regime or have their body parts surgically rearranged.

Instead, it’s about each contributor embracing her unique awesomeness (taking into account larger societal expectations). The featured individuals span body type, orientation, gender identification, income, race, region, culture, etc.

As a fan of the show, it’s occurred to me that much of Stacy and Clinton’s advice could--with a tweak or two--apply just as well to a career in book writing as it does to creating a wardrobe.

It's all about what you're trying to say.

With that in mind:

Assess & Strategize

100+ degrees? Rock those arms.
Everyone’s body is different. I’m curvy with short arms and therefore often shop in the petite section, even though my height is average at 5’5”. As a brown-eyed brunette with light olive skin, I tend to look best in brights and jewel tones. I’m tall enough for a ¾ jacket but short enough (and mature enough) that I should probably keep skirts around the knee.

Everyone’s writing is different. I’m a fantasist and realistic fiction writer. I enjoy world building, write across age markets, lean toward multicultural casts, experiment with literary devices and often employ elements of suspense, mystery, humor and romance. In deciding where to go after the Feral series, I’ll weigh all this before making my next move.

Got it?

Okay, now consider your own writing, your predispositions and skills, what you might want to try—or try on—next.

Express Yourself

Stand out. What do you want to say and how?

Sure, you have to consider what’s appropriate to the situation. But no matter what, you’re communicating, people are paying attention, and you’ll be more effective if you own that responsibility. Dressing in over-sized clothes with holes in them says something. Pairing a colorful pattern with a more subtle one and a completer piece says something else.

Writers, what do you want to say and how? What’s the story you’re eager to share? The approach you want to take? How do you want the reader to feel as s/he turns the pages? What choices do you need to make to communicate that?

Color, Pattern, Texture & Shine

I organize tops by color, then prints by color family, then arm length.
Speaking of choices, there’s an art to style. Create interest by juxtaposing color, pattern, texture and shine against neutrals. It's the bland elements that make the flashier ones pop (without overwhelming).

There’s an art to writing. Create interest by juxtaposing poetic language, punctual language, description, action, dialogue, interior monologue, quasi-epistolary elements and/or literary devices against white space. Yes, what you don't say speaks volumes, too.

(Feature) Focus

You toss a shiny, colorful, print-and-ruffled blouse against a rattlesnake-textured crop pant and cover it up with a full-length, fur-trimmed corduroy jacket and you’ve got a scary mess.

You’d be better off with a button-up white cotton blouse and dark-wash jeans. Better still if you added a woven medium brown leather belt and some silver jewelry, plus a bright red bag and studded heels (that don’t have to match, but should go). Ask yourself what serves the outfit.

And ask yourself what serves the manuscript. You’re studying novels in verse and cooing over witty footnotes and enamored with graphic elements and thrilled that you can finally frame a voice well enough to succeed with alternating point of view. Nobody wants to wade through all of that at once. Choose for effect.

Try Stuff On

"Jeans go with everything." --Stacy
You’re intrigued by the dress, but you think it’ll hang on you like a potato sack. Try it on anyway. Maybe the color will make your eyes pop. Maybe a belt will create shape. You’ll never know until you try.

For me, the short story has been a tremendous venue for experimentation. It’s my literary dressing room.

Don’t get me wrong. Shorts (in fiction and fashion) are a wonderful end unto themselves. But there’s less at stake—in terms of time and money—with short fiction or nonfiction than with a book.

I tried writing upper YA, boy voice and humor first through the short story, and now all three are hallmarks of my work.

It’s Not a One-Size-Fits-All World

You know something about one-size-fits-all clothes?

They’re shapeless. You're not. You deserve better.

You’re not a lesser person because you’re not size 2 or 20 or because you are a size 2 or 20. Own those curves and/or plains, baby, and find the fit that’s right for you!

YA fiction may be hot, but your passion and skill set are a better fit for nonfiction picture books. Or you’re writing YA fiction, but you’re skewing edgier or more literary or more humorous than the presumed ideal book of the moment. Don’t jam yourself into a one-size-fits-all story just to sell. Write the book that’s right for your future fans.

Be Educable

If you’re falling out of that top, you’re probably not going to be taken seriously at work. If you’re not getting dates, your off-duty nun apparel might have something to do with it. Don’t cling to what’s never going to work. Be open to improvement and a brighter future.

If you’re getting the same feedback from your critique group and in editor-agent conference consultations, it’s possible they’re all onto something. Listen. Consider. Revise.

Think About Use Value

"Every Texas woman should have a boot." -- Clinton
Are you ever going to wear that?

I bought some fully lined black leather pants (Nordstrom’s leather, not biker-chick leather), and they looked elegant. But I live in a city that boasts over three hundred days of sunshine and the heat that comes with it. I wore them once and now they’re in the donation pile.

How charming that you’re inspired to write a novel about the inner musings of a mollusk. You’ve done your mollusk research, channeled your inner phylum.

If you’re writing for writing’s sake, rock on with it. I believe in art for the joy of art. But if you want a career in children’s publishing….

Sorry, kitten. Nobody else (outside of perhaps your family) is going to read that.

Trust Your Gut

This will sound contradictory, but hey, it’s a balancing act. Yes, you need to make thoughtful decisions but don’t think yourself into paralysis. Maybe you don’t have an occasion for that dress, but wearing it makes you feel like you’re twirling on air. Buy it and throw a party.

Unless you’re deep in mollusk brain, write the book you have to write and let the market worry about itself. It might even surprise and reward you.

Be Your Own Boss

So far, my favorite “What Not to Wear” contributor is Emi from season 9.

She’s an effervescent science teacher, age 25, who loves her momma and grandmomma. But because of their fashion advice, she was dressing like she was 65 (and a frumpy 65 at that).

You have to wear what’s right for you, even if it doesn’t please everyone and/or challenges their comfort zones.

Writing children's-YA literature? News flash: you’re not a teenager anymore, and you don’t need your mother’s or grandmother's permission or approval. Ditto your minister, your husband, your children and the ex-best-friend you see at the occasional soccer game.

In style, you need to be true to yourself, and in story, you need to be true to your characters. Put them center stage and let the chips tumble.

Structure Is Your Friend

The cut of clothing can accentuate/de-emphasize your shoulders, curves and legs. It can take what you’re trying to say about yourself, your purpose and the occasion and make it more polished.

Story structure or a poetic form can help you organize your thoughts and make them more accessible to young readers.

It’s Not You, It’s the Clothes

You’ve tried on twenty pairs of jeans and none of them work. Keep trying. You may need to get alternations, but nobody said this wouldn’t take effort. Put in the time, and don’t make each attempt a reflection of who you are as a person.

So those aren’t the right jeans for you. So what. Keep the faith, and eventually, you’ll find a pair that make your booty look fantabulous.

You’ve sent twenty queries to twenty agents, and so far nothing’s panned out. Keep trying. You may need to revise or tweak your letter, but nobody said this wouldn’t take effort. Put in the time, and don’t make each attempt a reflection of who you are as a person.

So those aren’t the right agents for you. So what. Keep the faith, and eventually, you’ll find your manuscript’s champion.

You Deserve to Feel Great Now 

Raise your hand if you like my new gold shoes!
Don’t wait until you finish that MFA program or sign with an agent or sell that book or win an award or make the bestseller list to begin celebrating the awesomeness that is you. Celebrate now!

Oh, wait. That one works for style and story without tweaking.

Go figure. And go ahead, celebrate!

More Personally

I watch re-runs of "What Not to Wear" while weight lifting. It makes me happy and offers enough to think about to distract me from the pain. It's the only reality television show I've ever watched.

In the past month, I've built a new wardrobe, and Clinton and Stacy's "essentials" list from Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body was the perfect place to start. Consider it highly recommended.

About Cyn

Enter to win
Enter to win
Cynthia Leitich Smith (that's me!) is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of the Tantalize series, the Feral series, numerous essays and short stories as well as several books for younger readers.

Cynthia's home base on the Web is www.cynthialeitichsmith.com. Check out her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @CynLeitichSmith.

Thanks to P.J. Hoover for wowing us with her amazing new cowboy boots.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

International Giveaway: Feral Nights & Eternal: Zachary's Story Are Now Available from Walker Books Australia & New Zealand

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Celebrate the Australia-New Zealand release of Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series) and Eternal: Zachary's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle (a graphic novel from the Tantalize series) by entering to win copies of your very own! Eligibility is international; anyone can win!

Feral Curse (Book 2) is off to copy editing. It's set in a fictional small town, based on Bastrop, Texas; and will be released in early 2014.

Feral Nights (Book 1 in the Feral series) is now available from Walker Books Australia and New Zealand. It was released in North America from Candlewick Press earlier this year. From the promotional copy:

Fans of the Tantalize quartet will thrill to see werepossum Clyde and other favorite secondary characters — plus all-new ones — take to the fore in book one of an all-new series.

When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation.

Meanwhile, werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis.

When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species. The island harbors a grim secret and were-predator and were-prey must join forces in a fight to escape alive.

Fans of best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize quartet will thrill to see favorite sidekick characters--together with all-new ones--take to the fore in this wry, high-action entry in an exciting new series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eternal: Zachary's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle (Walker/Candlewick, 2013), a Tantalize series graphic novel:

View interior spread
Reckless guardian angel Zachary has an unusual assignment. He’s meant to save the soul of Miranda, high-school theater wannabe turned glamorous royal vampire. Completely devoted to Miranda, Zachary takes his demotion to human form in stride, taking a job as the princess's personal assistant.

Of course, this means he has to balance his soul-saving efforts with planning the Master’s fast-approaching Deathday gala.

Vivid illustrations by Ming Doyle elevate this darkly funny love story to a new dramatic level with bold black-and-white panels.

Cynthia Leitich Smith’s New York Times bestseller is reimagined as a graphic novel seen through the eyes of Zachary, guardian angel.

Eternal: Zachary's Story is told from Zachary's point of view and includes new scenes not seen in the preceding prose novel Eternal (Walker/Candlewick, 2009, 2010) as well as scenes previously told from Miranda's point of view.

Cynsational Notes

Cynthia Leitich Smith & Feral Nights: an interview from Joy Preble. More thoughts on the new novel and its main characters, balance (or lack thereof) and the writing life, best Austin dining and other destinations, and much more. For more on the story behind the story, see Follow the (YA) Reader and Secret Asian Man: Yoshi Kitahara and Feral Nights.

Eternal: Zachary's Story artist Ming Doyle
The Horn Book says of Feral Nights: "Smith’s blend of supernatural suspense, campy humor, and romantic tension is addictive; allusions to both pop culture ('Thriller,' Monty Python) and literature (The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Most Dangerous Game) add to the fun. Most satisfying of all, Aimee and especially unassuming, injured Clyde leave their sidekick roles behind to come into their own."

Publishers Weekly chimes in: "Smith’s fantasy smoothly switches between the three protagonists’ perspectives, while expertly blending the mythical and the modern. The story’s sharp banter and edgy plot make for an entertaining and clever story about loyalty and reconciling differences."

Booklist calls it "sexy, fast-paced" and cheers the "ending that satisfies and should win her many new fans."

Kirkus Reviews cheers, "...dialogue that sparkles with wit, filled with both literary and pop-culture references. ('You’re saying that you and my sister perform exorcisms on vomiting children with rotating heads?')...playful, smart tone."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Voice: Liesl Shurtliff on Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Liesl Shurtliff is the first-time author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Knopf, 2013). From the promotional copy:

In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.

Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.

His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.

There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.

Could you describe both your pre-and-post contract revision process? What did you learn along the way? How did you feel at each stage? What advice do you have for other writers on the subject of revision?

Pre-Contract Revisions

I loved the concept for my book, but it became apparent early in the process that I could not rely on the inherent interestingness of my concept to carry the story, and that while my writing was lively and my characters fun, I had some real work do to when it came to plot, especially the ending.

This was slapped into my brain when I attended a local conference and had an editor critique the first ten pages of an early draft of my novel. She was very complimentary. Loved the idea, the writing, but then asked where I intended to take the story and how I was going to resolve it all. Admittedly, I was still working through some of those things, but I had to tell her something. Unfortunately what I told her was just a notch above lame. She sort of sucked in her breath and said, “Hmm. Be careful with that. I’m not saying it can’t work, but it has the potential to be disappointing to your reader.”

After that fateful meeting with the editor, I spent a weekend totally depressed and drowned myself in chocolate. After I gained five pounds and cried chocolate tears, I picked myself up and decided that I wanted to do this right and to do that, I had to do the dirty work.

I brainstormed like crazy over my plot, agonizing over character motivations, and small details. I used my husband as a sounding board. I rewrote 50% of what I had and within just a few months of that editor’s critique, I had a much stronger novel. I landed an agent in a month and got a contract just two months after that. Sometimes we have to get beaten down to get strong, I guess.

Post-Contract

My editor said from the beginning that she felt my book was strong, so we didn’t make any huge excavations of my story, but I’ve learned that the small, gritty details are sometimes the most difficult parts of revision. Because you’re so close to the manuscript, it’s hard to see how changing small things might affect the big picture. And small thing can change the big picture. Little cogs can power big things.

I also worried about being a “Yes” Girl, and letting my story get away from me. I’ve always been open to suggestions and criticism, but I’ve also never had a problem disregarding advice that simply did not resonate with me.

Somehow it felt different working with an editor. I really wanted to please her, so everything she said seemed to come with a little extra weight. Still, I agonizing over little things my editor asked me to cut or tone down. I worried that I might be watering down the voice, oversimplifying the story, or even sacrificing creative expression for the sake of pleasing librarians and parents, which at the time felt like a betrayal of my creative integrity and my intended audience.

In the end, I found my editor to be right on just about everything. Still, I think it’s right to agonize over these things. I’m glad I did, because now I have complete confidence that the revisions and changes I made in my story were mine. I listened to suggestions and reason, as any writer should, but I never made changes without first reasoning it out in my own mind and deciding that this really would make the story stronger.

Advice for Other Writers

There are a lot of good writers out there. I mean people who can string words together in beautiful ways and write a stunning paragraph, and have lots of awesome ideas that make for a killer opening that probably gets lots of requests from agents and editors, but that doesn’t always translate into an amazing story. This is where revising comes into play, and it’s just as much of a skill as the writing itself. You have to become a kind of book surgeon. Revision is all about proper diagnosis and treatment. Cut out the bad, develop the good, murder the extraneous darlings.

The best writers I know are great revisers, and this takes practice. So practice.

As a fantasy writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time fantasy reader? Did a particular book or books inspire you?

Felix
I have always adored fantasy, as a child and an adult. I think the idea of different worlds is what first attracted me to the genre, and of course the magic. I remember reading C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and I kept wishing Narnia would appear in my closet.

I still get a little nostalgic as an adult, and when my nine-year-old daughter admitted that she wished she would get a letter from Hogwarts, I had to admit that I would really like one, too. I really would.

But at the end of the day, I think what I really love about fantasy is the connections between the fantasy and the real world. It isn’t really the strange and different things that make fantasy so wonderful. It’s the way those strange and different things are similar to the ordinary. They give a lens for us to view our everyday lives in a different way, and hopefully come away transformed.

Here’s something I don’t tell people very often: I stayed away from fantasy as a writer because I didn’t think I was creative enough. It’s easy to read other fantasy novels and get intimidated by the brilliance of the world, the unique concepts, the intricate magic systems, etc. I thought it would be much easier to write realistic fiction (that is not true, by the way) but my imagination always gravitated toward fantasy.

Eventually I got over my inferiority complex enough to give it a go. I’m so glad I did!

For Rump, I think I have been most inspired and influenced by Gail Carson Levine, particularly Ella Enchanted, and Roald Dahl. Matilda was always my favorite, though James and the Giant Peach is a close second.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Event Report: Texas Library Association

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Thanks to Candlewick Press, TLA's YART librarians, Mackin, the Book Festivals of Texas booth, my fellow authors, the other exhibitors, the other attending children's-YA librarians (and teens!), and everyone else who pitched in to make this year's TLA convention in Fort Worth such a success!

Spirit of Texas YA author panel with librarian Natasha Benway, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Gail Giles, Jennifer Ziegler & C.C. Hunter
With fellow SPOT author C.C.
Austin public librarians Michelle Beebower & Nichole Chagnon
Candlewick "family" dinner with Deborah Noyes, Sharon Hancock, Tanya Lee Stone, Hilary Van Dusen, Jon Klassen, Jenny Choy & Greg Leitich Smith at Ellerbe Fine Foods in Fort Worth
The next day, I signed in the author area and at the Mackin booth
Greg, E. Kristin Anderson & Rachel Caine signing at the Book Festivals of Texas booth
With librarians Natasha Benway & Tabatha Perry in the Book Festivals of Texas booth
Greg's Chronal Engine editor Daniel Nayeri (also a YA author & HMH publishing pro)
Greg with librarian Naomi Bates
Kathi Appelt signing ARCs of The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Jane Yolen
Kelly Bennett shows of Vampire Baby at the Candlewick booth
Highlights of the convention included meeting Jon Klassen -- very personable, nice guy!
Chris Rylander
With Victoria Scott, modeling The Collector
Mari Mancusi models Scorched
Rosemary & Greg model Spirit and Dust
Tim Tingle has his own booth
With Mary E. Pearson in the green room before the Texas Tea
My table with Deb & Round Rock librarians at the Texas Tea (authors rotated from one table to the next)
With Jenni Holm at the Omni
Okay, I'm not a librarian, but I couldn't resist!
Cynsational Notes

See also TLA Convention Photo Reports from P.J. Hoover and Greg Leitich Smith.

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