Friday, May 10, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Project: Boy Next Door by L.K. Madigan from Megan Crewe at Another World, Not Quite Ours. Peek:
"Lisa was always there to offer encouragement, commiseration, or a laugh.
"Losing her to cancer was devastating. Not only had we lost a companion, advocate and friend, we had lost Lisa’s stories—her unique voice, humor, and way of seeing the world.
"Imagine my surprise and happiness when a fellow deb, Rhonda Helms, said she had been approached by Lisa’s husband, Neil, to edit and publish Project: Boy Next Door."

From the promotional copy of Project: Boy Next Door:
Being the son of a mega-famous mogul isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which is why super-smart but socially awkward teen Melvin Pepper wants to try something new: anonymity. To attend a regular high school, get a normal job, meet real people. A break from the pressure and facade that come with crazy wealth and a world-renowned last name.

But Mel quickly realizes that being Mike, his alter ego, isn’t as easy as he’d assumed. He gradually makes friends at work and school and becomes involved in the radio club, plus navigates the rocky waters of first crushes and first kisses. However, he discovers someone out there is on to his secret and is threatening to expose it.

And that’s not all. One of Mel’s new work friends is hiding a dark secret of her own, and Mel feels helpless to make things better for her. He struggles with juggling two very different identities, balancing jealous old friends and nosy new ones. Yup, Mel’s in way over his head…and the only chance he has to make everything right is to be true to himself.

More News & Giveaways

Middle Grade Saved My Life by Jeanne Birdsall from The Horn Book. Peek: "Bad things were done to me when I was small. Lacking adequate physical defenses, I escaped into my imagination, where I could be all-powerful and the scariest monster was the witch in my closet." Source: Educating Alice.

Top Twenty Picture Book Agents: 171 Sales by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "These sales are self-reported, which may or may not skew the results. These are the top literary agents for picture books for the last year."

Do I Need a Literary Agent? by Carolyn Kaufman from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: "They may know about markets you’ve never heard of, and they know how much editors are paying for particular types of manuscripts."

Hunger Mountain Auction from Hunger Mountain: A VCFA Journal of the Arts at Ebay. Bid to win critiques by children's-YA literary agents Alexandra Penfold, Tricia Lawrence, Elena Mechlin, Holly McGhee, Alyssa Henkin, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Emily Van Beek & more.

Slushpile Chat: An Author (Sara Grant) & Agent (Jenny Savill) Discuss the Art of Revision from Notes from the Slushpile. Peek: "Revisions don’t stop once you have an agent – and they carry on once you have an editor. They are a necessary on-going process."

How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section at the Library by Heidi MacDonald from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "...the graphic novel genre has become one of the fastest-growing at libraries of all kinds, as a new generation of librarians adopts the category as a means to energize collections and boost circulation and patronage."

Two-in-One Notebook: Author Leanne Lieberman & Editor Sarah Harvey on Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust from The Whole Megilah. Peek: "I wanted to think about what happens to a Jewish teen when there is too much emphasis on tragedy and how that can overshadow other aspects of Jewish heritage."

Author Insight: Literary Lifestyles from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "How has your life changed since you sold your first book and joined the publishing industry? Did you maintain life as you knew it or ditch the day job and become a full-time author?"

It Takes a Village...To Write a Book by Pat Zietlow Miller from EMU's Debuts. Peek: "I think many people assume that writers sit down, write their book in solitude, edit it a bit, send it off and wait for a publishing offer to arrive. That’s usually not the case..."

Beyond the Friends by Yolanda Hare from The Horn Book. Peek: "Can we please see more black geeks in African American young adult literature? More protagonists who are so worried they’ll never date that pregnancy isn’t even an issue? More black teens living mundane middle-class lives? Just because urban ghetto life is one black story, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only story." Note: conversation continues in the comments.

Minimizing Risk as a Writer: A Guide for the Risk-Adverse by Elizabeth S. Craig from Mystery Writing Is Murder. Peek: "Cozy mystery readers are loyal readers and very interactive ones. I have generally taken their lead when they tell me what they like and don’t like about my books…tweaking future books to make them more appealing and to give them more of what they like and less of what they didn’t."

Hiding Emotions: Just Act Normal by Becca Puglisi from The Bookshelf Muse. Peek: "To protect ourselves, everyone periodically resorts to deception—to avoid consequences, to get what we want, to keep from hurting ourselves or others."

Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts
2013 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, selected by NCTE Children's Literature Assembly, from Educating Alice. A list of recommended titles.

Marketplace Fairness Act Sails Through Senate from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "...the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow states to collect taxes from online sellers that do $1 million or more in gross sales annually. The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 (S.743) now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives where passage is less certain." Note: high stakes for online and brick-and-mortal book retailers.

Karen and Philip Cushman Late Bloomer Award: immediately launched for writers over the age of fifty who have not been traditionally published in the children’s literature field. The grant was established by Newbery Award winner and Newbery Honor Book recipient Karen Cushman and her husband, Philip Cushman, in conjunction with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Karen published her first children’s book, The Midwife’s Apprentice (winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal), at the age of 53 and has gone on to become one of the field’s most acclaimed novelists.

How to Begin from Mette Ivie Harrison. Peek: "You want to evoke an emotion. It can be a negative emotion. It can be a positive emotion. But an emotion is almost always going to be associated with a human character. If your main character is not human, you are going to have to work awfully hard to make the reader feel an attachment to the character."

Because "No" Always Means "No" - A List of YA Titles Dealing with Rape and Sexual Harassment from Teen Librarian Toolbox. Peek: "It's not easy to read about it or talk about it, but we have to. Information - education - is the only way to end sexual violence. Here are some titles that deal with this subject in various ways. Read them. Talk about them. Develop empathy for the victims. Speak out against violence and speak up for its victims."

The Next Big Thing in YA Dystopia by Paul Goat Allen from The Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Peek: "...for all of its thematic intensity, it was (Cori) McCarthy’s gripping writing style—which was simultaneously filled with vivid imagery and brutally blunt—that made this read so memorable."

Children's Book Week is May 13 to May 19. Peek: "Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes -- wherever young readers and books connect!"

“Editing without an Editor” Workshop on June 30 in Westport, CT. Peek: "Learn how to revise like an editor by working with two experienced editors. To create a framework, they'll compare 'reader response' theory and the lit. crit. approach, and explore ways to gain objectivity and to focus on different aspects of manuscripts. After lunch, you will learn and try out a variety of techniques for self-editing, from big picture revision down to copy-editing, working on your own or with a partner. The workshop fee is $175 through May 21, and $225 after that. A critique of up to 15 pages is $40; longer manuscripts can be critiqued by arrangement."

The Question: All Covers Are Created Equal?
Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of Take Me To Your BBQ by Kathy Duval is Heidi in Utah.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

At The Writing Barn, I join Jeff Crosby, Erik Kuntz, Mark G. Mitchell, Julie Lake, Amy Farrier and Shelley Ann Jackson as Bethany Hegedus shares art work for Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored by Arun Gandhi and illustrated by Evan Turk.
Personal Links

Cynsational Events

Attention Central Texans! Join keynoters Andrea Cremer and David Levithan, along with Greg Leitich Smith, Jessica Lee Anderson, Mari Mancusi and many more May 11 at YAB Fest in Round Rock.

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 09, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Lisa Jahn-Clough on The Writing Process & Nothing But Blue

Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt
By Lisa Jahn-Clough
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

All dead. No one survived. All dead.

This morbid chant haunts seventeen-year-old Blue as she trudges through the countryside with just the clothes on her back, heading to her childhood home on the ocean.
Something absolutely awful has happened, she knows it, but she doesn’t know what. She can’t even remember her name, so she calls herself Blue.

This gripping survival story—peppered with flashbacks to bittersweet times with her boyfriend Jake—strips life down to its bare bones.
Blue learns, with the help of a seemingly magical stray dog and kind people along the road, that the important thing is to live.

Perhaps the biggest impetus for this book occurred twelve years ago when a friend of mine lost her house and everything in it in a sudden gas explosion. Luckily my friend was out at the time, but when she got back, her home was crumbled to rubble and ash.

The idea of losing everything so suddenly was something that has haunted me ever since. Then, like many writers, I raised the stakes by asking, “what if?” What if this happened to a teenager? What if her home and her family had “blown-up?” How would she possibly go on?

Lisa's storyboard
Such a tragedy would likely cause panic and short-term memory loss. This happens to Blue (the main character) as she flees, and for is compelled to walk 500 miles east with no money, food, cell phone, hide in the shadows and until she can no longer refuse help.

There were other things I wanted to explore--such as the surreal bond between a dog and human (I am a big fan of dogs), and people who live "off the grid" and don't fit into the norms of society. I’d met someone who used to train hop and that lifestyle fascinated me.

I wanted to explore surviving tragedy when you think you cannot. In other words, I wanted to write about the journey of life, both figurative and literal. And the possibility of hope.

All these things were milling in my brain for years while I went about writing other books, teaching, and doing whatever it is I do.

Then finally, three years ago, I was really stuck and had no idea what I was going to write next. I’d published two novels and a bunch of picture books.

I wanted to challenge myself in a new way and to write in a voice that is not at all like mine, from the point of view of a character that is not at all like me. It seemed the right time to take a risk and finally weave together all these things I’d been contemplating into a story. Why not? 

I knew where I wanted Blue in the beginning and where I wanted her in the end. The journey would be all that happened in between, her quest, both internal and external, to get where she needs to be.

I went to a cafe and began writing by hand in a notebook as if I were Blue and this was her private journal, as if my house had just blown up and I couldn’t remember a thing except that I had to get home. I kept writing day after day, one scene at a time, eventually filling three journals.

Then I transcribed and edited into the computer, organized scenes, wove in flashbacks, made storyboards, started over, wrote more, and revised like hell for about two years until I had a decent draft and out came Nothing But Blue.

Lisa's Journal
Lisa's Manuscript

Cynsational Notes

The dog in the trailer is one of Lisa's dogs, Rico.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win signed hardcover copies of Nothing But Blue (Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, 2013), Me, Penelope (Walter Lorraine Books, 2007), and Country Girl, City Girl (Walter Lorraine Books, 2004) all by Lisa Jahn-Clough. Author sponsored. Eligibility: international.

From the promotional copy of  Me, Penelope:

Penelope Yeager is like a lot of sixteen-year-olds—she wants more independence from her crazy mother; she wants to get her driver’s license; and she wants to get out of high school, away from her town. 

More than anything, Lopi wants to find someone to really connect with, someone to love, and she wants to forget all about the accident that happened six years ago. She’s already figured out how to graduate a year early, but the rest isn’t so easy. 

Lopi tries to navigate the murky waters of sex and love and growing up, but she can’t fool herself—Lopi has a secret that sets her apart: the accident was her fault, she is evil . . .

From the promotional copy of Country Girl, City Girl:

Phoebe Sharp lives on a small farm in Maine, where she reads fairy tales to her goats and snaps pictures with her Instamatic camera. Phoebe doesn’t have a single friend, never mind a boyfriend. 

Then she meets Melita. With her caramel-colored skin, stylish clothes, and urban attitude, Melita seems as different from Phoebe as two teenage girls could be.

But over the summer, the girls grow to know each other. As their friendship develops, so do other, more confusing feelings. Could their friendship be deepening into something more? 

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

New Voice: Lindsey Scheibe on Riptide

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Lindsey Scheibe is the first-time author of Riptide (Flux, 2013). From the promotional copy:

Grace has one summer to prove she’s good enough.

For Grace Parker, surfing is all about the ride and the moment. Everything else disappears. She can forget that her best friend, Ford Watson, has a crush on her that she can’t reciprocate. She can forget how badly she wants to get a surf scholarship to U.C. San Diego. She can forget the pressure of her parents’ impossibly high expectations.

When Ford enters Grace into a surf competition— the only way she can impress the UCSD surfing scouts—she has one summer to train and prepare. Will she gain everything she’s ever wanted or lose the only things that ever mattered?

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

I am blessed to be part of an awesome and very active writing community – Austin SCBWI. It is through that chapter that I met critique partners, made writing friends, and life friends.

Cynthia – you are a strong presence and leader in our chapter and I have definitely been blessed by mentor moments with you regarding milestones on my path to publication. The example you have set has been an excellent one.

Cynthia Leitich Smith & Lindsey Scheibe celebrate Liz Garton Scanlon's Happy Birthday Bunny!
Nikki Loftin has been an immense blessing in the form of critique partner, in paving the way for debut author info, and an awesome source of emotional support.

Lindsey and Nikki Loftin
Sam Bond and Raynbow Gignilliat (online crit partners) read so many early drafts of this manuscript, they deserve a medal.

Samantha Bond with former Austin SCBWI RA Tim Crow & Nikki
Local published authors have been a huge source of inspiration, encouragement, and know how for not only the publishing process but for writing from your heart. That is priceless.

What was the one craft resource book that helped you most during your apprenticeship? Why? How would you book-talk it to another beginning writer in need of help?

In the very beginning, a fabulous resource for me was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (Fireside, 2000) because it really showed me where I was messing up on the mechanics of things, on the nitty gritty of editing. If a writer is interested in the basics on dialogue tags and general cleaning up of their sentences, then I would say this was a great accessible starter book.

While I didn’t use this book on my current novel, Save The Cat by Blake Snyder (Michael Wiese Productions, 2005) has become a recent favorite for plotting. If someone is looking for a book to help them with structure and plot points, then I would praise Save The Cat for not only breaking things down in very accessible ways, but also as an immensely enjoyable read. I love his examples!

What inspired you to choose the particular point of view-first, second, third (or some alternating combination) featured in your novel? What considerations came into play? Did you try the story from a different point of view at some point? If so, what made you change your mind?

Originally this story was told solely in first person point of view from one character – Grace. I wanted to create the cloud of confusion Grace lived in, but it resulted in an inability for the reader to connect with Grace’s situation.

I realized that when the story was told only from her point of view, the reader didn’t get quite how easy it was for other people to miss the enormity of what she was dealing with or to understand her and how her situation of domestic abuse played into her choices and affected her relationships.

Readers really liked the story but there was a mixed bag regarding their reactions towards Grace and her parents, which I found to be very interesting.

What I found early on in drafts is that my readers typically grudgingly or not-so-grudgingly liked the dad, couldn’t stand the mom, and loved Grace or got frustrated with her. They wanted her to behave in healthy ways even though she was surrounded and raised in an unhealthy environment.

I believe the reader put much of the onus on Grace because there was not a voice of reason they could identify with.

Readers loved the story, but they really needed a voice of reason. A way to say, hey what’s wrong with this picture – things don’t add up. A way to call Grace out on choices she made or accepted. That is where Ford’s point of view came in.

Ford provided the opportunity for the reader to see into Grace’s world from an outside perspective. Ford is not always the voice of reason, but he shows how easy it is to be deceived or confused by Grace’s situation and family, which in the end makes it easier for the reader to understand some of the deeper complexities of Grace’s situation. Without Ford’s POV, the reader is left in a confused state trying to understand Grace’s decisions and family life. Ford’s POV helps clear up the confusion and gives the reader an anchor.

I switched to alternating POVs because I felt it would give a wider and truer picture of how Grace’s story was playing out in everyday life. It ended up adding in subplots, texture and characters, which I have come to love and couldn’t imagine Riptide without.

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?

Visit Lindsey online!
Absolutely. I was most concerned about the use of language and domestic violence. I didn’t want it to be gratuitous; it needed to be organic to the story.

It was important to portray the manipulative psychological component of the violence and to portray that in a realistic way, melded with the black and white of physical violence.

 I tried to create that psychological component in a way that was true to the characters and the story.

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?

Before my contract, this manuscript went through several drafts and I’m guesstimating at least five major iterations. I’m one of those strange writers who loves critiques and revisions. The prospect of making my manuscript better is always shiny!

I went through one major round of revisions with my editor and fortunately he was pleased with them. I really appreciated his insights into how to make Riptide a stronger novel. For anyone going through an editorial process whether it’s with a critique partner, an agent, or an editor, I think it’s really important to remember that the goal of the critique is to make the manuscript stronger.

If something doesn’t resonate with you or a suggestion doesn’t jive, I think it really needs to be thought through well. Whether one agrees or not, there is a reason for that person’s reaction to the manuscript. It could be they didn’t get a scene, but the follow up question would be why? And how could you fine-tune that so it comes across stronger/clearer to the reader.

Whether I agree with a comment or not, I always feel there is a validity to it and I need to work through that and figure out a way to address the underlying concern or start a dialogue to explain myself further and open the conversation up to figure out the disconnect.

My philosophy on revision that I share with others is: Hold your words loosely and hold the heart of your story tightly.

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

Lindsey gives Shutta Crum info at the Austin SCBWI con.
For me writing is an outlet, emotional and creative. It fuels me and brings me balance in my everyday life. It’s a little corner I can occupy and just be and create.

When I first started writing, I started with the goal of being published. So once I discovered author, agent, and editor blogs, I knew that was going to be my informal education. At one point, I read about 15-20 blogs a day during naptimes. That was my fuel and my crash course. My other fuel was SCBWI.

These days my primary job is mom and as we have some special needs in our family; that is quite a full time job. So, I don’t have the luxury of time I had when I first started writing 4.5 years ago.

My main constraint these days is just finding an hour here or there. I don’t have the luxury of warm ups or getting in the mood to write. But I need to write like I need air to breathe. So when I get a treasured bit of time to create, I take advantage of it and hit the ground running. For me failure is not an option and time is a luxury. I think a powerful motivator is to want something badly enough and that it’s important to believe in yourself.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

In general, the best place for me to write is a coffee shop or quiet café. I have littles running around at home and in order to get uninterrupted writing time; I usually head out to a local spot.

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?

The voice came by magic. As a landlocked person who hadn’t surfed on a regular basis in a couple of years when I started this manuscript, I just spent a few moments relishing the beauty of the ocean and the sexiness of surfing. I thought about how to make it come alive and then the first scene practically wrote itself.

I think tapping into emotional truths and memories, and just meditating on those will really help relay various emotions needed for different characters and scenes. It’s a bit like method acting, perhaps. You don’t have to have been in the same exact situation as your character, but you draw from similar emotions you might have felt in various circumstances and then translate them into your work.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn't address these factors? Why or why not?

YA authors April Lurie & Lindsey
I didn’t want technology to terribly date my story, so I tried to keep my terms/tech slang to a minimum. I do have some texting in the manuscript and phone calls. I mention internet videos but none of that plays a huge factor in Riptide. I would say it’s more of a background factor that nods to current technology trends.

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?

You grab snippets. If your kiddos nap, that’s the golden time. If your kiddo goes to therapy or participates in sports or extracurriculars, then you might be able to write while you wait.

Something’s gotta give and in our house that has translated to laundry piles and stacks of dishes. When my husband’s work schedule allows it, he’ll watch the kids for me a couple of hours a week so I can write. When it doesn’t allow for it, then we try to get a babysitter a couple of hours a week so I can write.

Cynsational Notes

Attention Central Texans! Lindsey will launch Riptide at 2 p.m. May 19 at BookPeople in Austin.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

In Memory: Fredrick McKissack

Fredrick with his wife and writing partner, Patricia
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Award-winning Author Fredrick McKissack Dies at 73 from The Brown Bookshelf. Peek: "Beloved children’s author Fredrick L. McKissack died on Sunday, April 28, at the age of 73. With his wife and longtime writing partner Patricia, McKissack was the author of more than 100 books for children..."

Fredrick McKissack, Half of Award-Winning Writing Team, Dies at 73 by Rocco Staino from School Library Journal. Peek: "The McKissacks’ collaboration led to numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Award and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award."

"We received a call on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday holiday from a member of the Coretta Scott King Award Committee and she informed us that our book was an honor book. 
"We were sooooooooo happy, but we were also moved by the idea that it had happened on Dr. King's Day. We said a prayer of thanks. Then we shouted for joy. We called our family and good friends to share the good news. 
"Then we went out for a breakfast celebration at I-HOP and continued to celebrate our good fortune combined with the King holiday of peace, love, forgiveness, and joy — with friends and family. It was a good day." 
--Fredrick McKissack Interview Transcript from Scholastic 

Fredrick L. McKissack: Civil Engineer Became Renown Children's Book Author by Gloria S. Ross from The St. Louis Beacon. Peek: "Mr. McKissack worked as a civil engineer for St. Louis and the U.S. Army. He later owned his own general contracting company. She taught English and edited children’s books until they embarked on a joint literary career."

Fredrick L. McKissack, 1939-2013 by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "As a writing team they adopted a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers, largely inspired by a shortage of such books in the marketplace. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans (Enslow), included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, and many others.... Donations in memory of McKissack can be made to the National Kidney Foundation and/or the United Negro College Fund."

We Will Miss Our Dear Friend Fredrick McKissack from The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance. Peek: "Fred McKissack was a man of honor and duty; a man of compassion and kindness; a man who brought light, joy, love, and wisdom into the lives of his beautiful family and many friends. We are so grateful, and honored, to have had Fred in our lives."

Cynsational Notes

In this video Fredrick quotes Albert Einstein on the importance of reading to children. It also includes a reading by Patricia of Goin' Someplace Special, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Atheneum).

Monday, May 06, 2013

Giveaway & Event Report: Ball by Mary Sullivan

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win a signed copy of Ball by Mary Sullivan (Houghton Mifflin, 2013). From the promotional copy:

A dog with a ball is one of the most relentlessly hopeful creatures on Earth.

After his best little-girl pal leaves for school, this dog hits up yoga mom, baby, and even the angry cat for a quick throw. No luck.

Forced to go solo, the dog begins a hilarious one-sided game of fetch until naptime’s wild, ball-centric dream sequence. The pictures speak a thousand words in this comic book-style ode to canine monomania.

Ball? Ball.

Author-illustrator sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Scroll for form to enter.

Readers gathered to celebrate Ball by Mary Sullivan on May 4 at The Writing Barn in Austin.

Mary models Ball.
Book sale by Mandy of BookPeople; venue by Bethany Hegedus of The Writing Barn.
Juggler adds to the fun!
Illustrators Erik Kuntz, Amy Farrier & author-illustrator Don Tate
Authors & illustrators at The Writing Barn sign the walls.
Author-illustrators Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby buy copies of Ball (note the giveaway balls in the bowl).
Erik and author Greg Leitich Smith
Authors Varian Johnson and Anne Bustard
Me (in my new sunglasses) with Mary

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SCBWI Crystal Kite Members Choice Awards

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations via SCBWI

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has announced the winners of the 2013 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for its fifteen regional divisions:


Neil Malherbe - The Magyar Conspiracy (Tafelberg Publishers)


Meg McKinlay - Ten Tiny Things (illustrated by Kyle Hughes-Odgers) (Fremantle Press)


Katherine Applegate - The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Southeast (Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama/Mississippi)

Augusta Scattergood - Glory Be (Scholastic)

Mid-South (Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri)

Sharon Cameron - The Dark Unwinding (Scholastic)

Middle East/India/Asia

Benjamin Martin - Samurai Awakening (Tuttle Publishing)

Midwest (Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan/Indiana/Ohio)

Aaron Reynolds - Creepy Carrots (illustrated by Peter Brown) (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Southwest (Nevada/Arizona/Utah/Colorado/Wyoming/New Mexico)

Jean Reagan - How to Baby Sit A Grandpa (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's Books)

New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island)

Jo Knowles - See You At Harry's (Candlewick Press)

New York

Kate Messner - Capture the Flag (Scholastic)

Atlantic (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland)

Ame Dyckman - BOY + BOT (illustrated by Dan Yaccarino) (Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children's Books)


Lynne Kelly - Chained (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.)

The Americas (Canada/Mexico/Central & South America)

Jennifer Lanthier - The Stamp Collector (Fitzhenry and Whiteside)


Dave Cousins - Fifteen Days without a Head (Oxford University Press)

West (Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota)

Kim Baker - Pickle (illustrated by Tim Probert) (Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Publishers)

About the Crystal Kite Awards

The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize great books from the seventy SCBWI regions around the world. Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers.


Founded in 1971, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children’s book authors and leaders in the world of children’s literature. For more information about the Crystal Kite Award, please visit, and click “Awards & Grants.”

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