Friday, November 22, 2013

Cynsational News & Giveaways

More on this cover reveal!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Authors for the Philippines: "The auction is now live and you can bid on the items via the comments on the individual posts. Once the auction has ended (Wednesday 20th November), we will contact the winning bidder and ask them to donate the funds directly to the Red Cross and send the confirmation of payment to us." Note: auction includes editor critiques, original illustrations, author visits, mentoring and much more.

Conflict vs. Tension by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Conflict should create tension. But it doesn’t, not all the time."

"I Don't Want an Honest Critique" by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "...I don’t want to hear it. Minor problems? OK, I’ll fix those. But major structural, plot or character problems? Don’t tell me."

Re: NaNoWriMo a No-No? by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor.com. Peek: "Publication can be the eventual result of NaNoWriMo. I know a novelist whose debut started there. 'Started' being the key word."

Hey Writer, What Are Your Strengths? by Michael G-G from Project Mayhem. Peek: "David Biespel argues that in workshops and critique groups we tend to focus on trying to improve each other's weaknesses, in the process paying hardly any attention to each other's strengths (I mean, they're strengths, so they're working, right?), and end up by reinforcing our writer's negative self-talk."

Make Your Hero Complex by Choosing the Right Flaws by Angela Ackerman from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "When it comes to flaws, it is the why behind the negative trait that is compelling."

Spotlight: Julie Berry on All the Truth That's In Me: an interview by Debbi Michiko Florence from DEBTastic Reads! Peek: "I firmly believe we must invest the same care and attention in getting to know our secondary characters as we do our main character. If we believe that all humans are of equal worth, then our writing should reflect that belief."

Need a Little Humor in Your Life? by Crystal from Rich in Color. Note: recommended comedic books featuring protagonists of color.

Querying Multiple Manuscripts by Jane Leback from QueryTracker Blog. Peek: "...some books are just not good 'debut' titles. They're solid books, but they would do better as a writer's second book because they're a little more risky."

Recurring Events: When to Tell & When to Show by Yahong Chi from Project Mayhem. Peek: "Unless the events all have massive emotional potential to develop throughout, reading about the same actions would become tiresome and flavourless."

The Top 7 Lessons I Learned About Blogging Children's and Teen Literature from Kidlit Con 2013 by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Indies First - Authors and Illustrators To Become Booksellers For A Day (Nov. 30) from SCBWI: The Blog. Peek: "Sherman Alexie has cooked up a great idea, and the American Booksellers Association is helping out."

Cynthia Kadohata Wins the 2013 National Book Award in Young People's Literature from CBC Diversity.

This Week at Cynsations
By Austinite Susan Signe Morrison
Cynsational Giveaway

See also a giveaway of Angel Fever by L.A. Weatherly and Red by Alison Cherry from Adventures in YA Publishing.

A Dino A Day Strikes Back (Con't)

Surf over to GregLSBlog for A Dino A Day Strikes Back, featuring author Greg Leitich Smith and shot at various landmarks around Austin, Texas!

It's a dinosaur T-shirt celebration of the paperback release of Chronal Engine (Clarion, 2013) and new editions of Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo and Tofu and T.rex (IntoPrint, 2013)(originally published by Little, Brown).

Day 9: Nightwing Sculpture
Day 10: Austin Nature & Science Center
Day 11: The Japanese Garden
Day 12: Moody Gardens

And for those who missed last week...

Day 1: Palmer Events Center (Austin Marathon Expo)
Day 2: Texas Memorial Museum (Exterior/Statuary)
Day 3: Waller Creek Boat House
Day 4: Hartmann Prehistoric Garden
Day 5: UT Alumni Center
Day 6: O. Henry House and Museum
Day 7: Santa Rita No. 1 oil rig
Day 8: Texas Memorial Museum (Interior/Fish)

Q&A with Author Greg Leitich Smith by Jennifer Dee from Riffle. Peek: "Of books this year, I think that young middle grade me would pick Kathi Appelt's The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum). It just has such a nice, quirky atmosphere and a lot of heart."

Chronal Engine now in paperback + new editions (& covers) for Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo & Tofu & T. rex
Author Greg Leitich Smith Discusses His Writing at Crisman School by Angela Ward from The News-Journal in Longview, Texas. “I like that his books are about dinosaurs because I want to be a paleontologist when I grow up,” Webber said. “It’s really, really amazing that he’s actually here to talk to us.” See also the Chronal Engine Activity Kit.

More Personally


Beyond the So-Called First Thanksgiving: 5 Children's Books That Set the Record Straight by Debbie Reese from Indian Country Today. Peek (re: Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002)): "Sprinkled with humor and warmth, each story is rich with details about Native life." See sidebar for readers' theater script and teacher guides.

A Gate Crashers Thanksgiving! What are Gate Crashing Kid Lit Authors Grateful for This Year? by Pamela K. Witte from Ink & Angst.

Personal Links

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Memory: Charlotte Zolotow

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Charlotte Zolotow, Author of Books on Children's Real Issues, Dies at 98 by Margalit Fox from The New York Times. Peek: "Ms. Zolotow’s own picture books — she wrote more than 70 — were cleareyed explorations of the interior landscape of childhood by one who had obviously not forgotten what it felt like to dwell there."

Children's Author and Editor Charlotte Zolotow Dies at 98 by Shannon Maughan from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "During her tenure as an editor, Zolotow worked with such noted authors as Patricia MacLachlan, Francesca Lia Block, Paul Fleischman, Paul Zindel, M.E. Kerr, and John Steptoe. She was honored in 1998 when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison established the Charlotte Zolotow Award, an annual prize for the best picture book text published in the U.S."

Charlotte Zolotow, Author of Ethereal Children's Picture Books, Dies by Annalisa Quinn from NPR. Peek: "She once wrote: 'We are all the same, except that adults have found ways to buffer themselves against the full-blown intensity of a child's emotions.'"

R.I.P Charlotte Zolotow by Roger Sutton from The Horn Book. Peek: "I had eviscerated a YA novel by her daughter Crescent Dragonwagon in an SLJ column, and Harper’s Bill Morris tracked me down and told me that Charlotte wanted to talk to me. In her hotel suite. Right now, if possible."

Lee & Low Books Acquires Shen's Books

From Lee & Low Books

Lee & Low Books, an independent children’s book publisher focused on diversity, has acquired children’s book publisher Shen’s Books. The acquisition is a new milestone in the growth of Lee & Low, which published its first book twenty years ago and has maintained its commitment to diversity in children’s books for two decades.

Originally based in California, Shen’s Books was founded as a retailer in 1985 and began publishing books in 1997. Its books emphasize cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.


Titles include the popular Cora Cooks Pancit, about a young girl cooking up a favorite Filipino dish with her mother, and the Cinderella series, which features retellings of the Cinderella story from cultures around the world.

“I am thrilled that our titles will be joining the amazing catalog of books at Lee & Low,” said Renee Ting, president and publisher of Shen’s Books. “There is no better publisher I can think of to carry on the values and spirit of Shen’s Books and advance the cause of diversity in children’s publishing.”


Shen’s Books will now become an imprint of Lee & Low, which will publish both backlist Shen’s titles and new books. The Shen’s Books imprint of Lee & Low will release seven reprints in early 2014, as well as one new title in the spring: Summoning the Phoenix, a collection of poems about Chinese musical instruments by Emily Jiang and illustrated by April Chu.

“We have admired the work that was done by Shen’s in the past, and we are honored to continue their legacy,” said Jason Low, Publisher of Lee & Low Books. “Lee & Low’s emphasis on diversity, cultural authenticity, and high-quality artwork makes it a perfect home for Shen’s Books.”

The acquisition comes a year after Lee & Low’s acquisition of Children’s Book Press, another California-based multicultural children’s book publisher. Since then, Lee & Low has brought over 85% of Children’s Book Press’s backlist titles back into print, with several more planned for the upcoming year.

Lee & Low is the largest children’s book publisher in the country specializing in diversity. The company provides a comprehensive range of diverse books for young readers, from Bebop Books for children just learning to read to picture books from its Lee & Low and CBP imprints, to gripping speculative fiction for young adults from Tu Books.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Post: Lisa Williams Kline on Character Relationships & Series Potential

By Lisa Williams Kline
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

When my editor at Zondervan bought Summer of the Wolves (2012), my book about stepsisters in a newly blended family, and asked for three more books about the same characters, I panicked.

I had written the book several years before, so I hadn’t been “with” those characters for awhile. I hadn’t planned on returning to them. Many writers dream of getting a series, but I hadn’t.

When I started brainstorming, though, I found lots of ideas for more books. The first book had taken place on a family vacation. There were plenty of other interesting places I could take the family on subsequent vacations. The first book had featured an adventure with animals, and I felt confident I could come up with plenty of other animal adventures. I relished the idea of researching those.

But the most important element for the series was the relationship between the two girls. I recently read a thoughtful article in The Kenyon Review by Amy Boesky, a literary writer who has formerly written many books in the Sweet Valley Twins series, and she said the crux of the success of that series was that one twin was mischievous and fun-loving and rebellious while the other one was a rule follower. Almost every activity resulted in conflict between the two girls, and this was the axis upon which the entire series turned.

My girls were very different, too. Diana is physically bold but socially awkward and reclusive, while Stephanie is socially adept but physically fearful. By nature, if one girl is happy in a certain situation, the other is likely to be miserable. With almost any activity, my two girls were going to want opposite outcomes.

This may seem obvious, but if you’re interested in writing a series, developing characters with this inherent conflict in their personalities can help drive the action of more than one plot. The conflict won’t seem manufactured, but can naturally arise from who your characters are.

Relationship triangles also drive conflict. An example of a relationship triangle is the one that drives The Hunger Games – between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale – where two people vie for the attention of a third. I saw that in my blended family, there were many opportunities for these relationship triangles, between the girls and their parents, both natural and step, between the stepsisters and other girls in their extended family, between the stepsisters and boys they met, and between the stepsisters and their grandparents.

In the second book, Wild Horse Spring, the girls both like the same boy. In the third book, Blue Autumn Cruise, the girls go on a cruise with extended family members, one of whom is a cousin Stephanie knows well but Diana has never met. There is instant probability of “odd man out” conflicts.

Again, the need to create these relationship triangles seems obvious, but now that I understand the way that these character dynamics can drive multiple stories about the same characters, as a writer I have tried to become more intentional in my use of them.

Mister Mo
Little Buddy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sesame Street Parody Video: The Hungry Games: Catching Fur

Shared by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"--releasing November 22--is the latest film adapted from a YA novel to hit screens. From the promotional copy:

The film begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. 

Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. 

Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.

(See also 700 Fans Camp Out for "Catching Fire" Premier by Sandy Cohen from ABC News.)

However, the major motion picture isn't the only adaptation:

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Voice: Susan Signe Morrison on Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Susan Signe Morrison is the first-time editor of Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America by Joan Wehlen Morrison (Chicago Review Press, 2012)(author blog and facebook page). From the promotional copy:

This diary of a smart, astute, and funny teenager provides a fascinating record of what an everyday American girl felt and thought during the Depression and the lead-up to World War II. 

Young Chicagoan Joan Wehlen describes her daily life growing up in the city and ruminates about the impending war, daily headlines, and major touchstones of the era—FDR’s radio addresses, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Goodbye Mr. Chips and Citizen Kane, Churchill and Hitler, war work and Red Cross meetings. 

Included are Joan’s charming doodles of her latest dress or haircut reflective of the era. Home Front Girl is not only an entertaining and delightful read but an important primary source—a vivid account of a real American girl’s lived experiences.

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

Joan and Susan, 2005
My book is nonfiction. I found the diaries of my mother, the oral historian Joan Wehlen Morrison, in a file cabinet after her death in 2010. The diaries she wrote as a teenager, ages 14-20, from the year 1937 through 1943, just before she married my dad, Robert Thornton Morrison.

Some of the volumes of diaries are missing; three of the original six still exist. The missing ones must have been lost during the war years when my folks traveled many times when my dad was in the Navy.

My mom, Joan, always told us she had kept a diary. She even told us where it was and wanted to get a hold of it. But my dad was also a writer and there were all sorts of papers and junk in front of the file cabinet. After they died after 66 years of marriage within two months of each other, my brothers and I had to clean out and sell our family home. There, just as Joan had said, were the diaries!

So the following year, as I grieved for my parents, I read and re-read the diaries. I decided to transcribe sections of them as a family project (and therapy for me).

But at a certain point in the transcription, I realized these diaries were important. They were a unique source for those studying World War II, teenagers in the pre-war and war years, feminist historians, and others.

So I sought out a publisher. I’m a professor of medieval literature at Texas State University and have published scholarly books and articles. But this book was different.

At first I sent it to the presses I knew: university presses. But they were not quite right. One company published war diaries, but soldiers’ diaries. My mom’s book got very nice rejections (believe me, I know rejections—these were personal!), but I just hadn’t found the right publisher.

Then—I did: Chicago Review Press that specializes in young adult nonfiction. I heard from the editor in early November 2011. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving 2011 she proposed it to her board and they were all enthusiastic. Home Front Girl was out by November 1, 2012.

As for roadblocks, there were really none. Occasionally I couldn’t make out my mom’s handwriting, though generally it was pretty good. I would enlist my husband—sometimes even my kids—to help me figure out a word or two. But mainly it was fascinating and so emotionally wonderful to reconstruct her teen years. I used about 2/5 of the material I found and am now working on an edition of her poetry.

I’m also working on a second book for Chicago Review Press: a young adult history of women in the Middle Ages!

As a nonfiction writer, what first inspired you to take on your topic? What about it fascinated you? Why did you want to offer more information about it to young readers?

Friday, Dec. 6, 1940
Clearly my inspiration was totally personal. I was truly blessed that my mom had left me this gift after she died. It fascinated – and consoled – me because the writer of the diaries is my mom. To see how a girl – a very smart girl, who reads a lot, is witty, self-ironic, and philosophical-- perceives the political situation as war is brewing in Europe is totally riveting.

I love the 1930s and 1940s period anyway, and now I got to see it first hand.

Diaries exist written by girls in Europe from that time period, but I never knew of one from the U.S. home front perspective. It adds something to the historical record. And the fact that Joan becomes a historian in later life makes her writing even more resonant.

My mom had the same sense of humor she had as an older woman. She had the same anti-war stance (one of her oral histories is about Vietnam). You can see her books here: http://homefrontgirldiary.com/joans-other-books/

And some moments were so “Mom.” For instance, when she gets in trouble in Study Hall. Monday, April 19, 1937; Age 14

Mr. Lucas thinks I’m a communist. Today in Study, you see, Ruth and I were—well—you know—doing Latin together. Which isn’t approved of.
Then Alice asked me what onomatopoeia is and, while I was explaining, Mr. L. came over and said, “Can’t you work by yourself?” to me. “Are you helping these girls or are they helping you?”
And I said, “Well, it’s sort of community work, you see.”
And he said, “Well, you know we can’t have a lot of little communities in study hall.” And I said, thinking of Latin, “No, but why not one big community.”
I guess he must have thought I was a communist then, ’cause he looked sort of frightened and said we’d better work alone.
And I said, “Uh-huh.” And that was that. Once before he made me (and Ruth) stand in the corner for community work—me the socialist! And I had my red sweater on, too!

Desk with current YA history research
I wanted young readers (it’s geared for 12 & up) to read it. First of all, to see the importance of keeping a diary—for getting into the daily habit of writing even when it seems like “nothing” is happening.

 Often you can have your most profound insights on days devoid of action when you are just thinking and daydreaming.

I kept to the following themes: the war and politics; romance (plenty of “necking”!); nature; speculations about the meaning of life and God; literary musings; and just beautifully written passages.

It’s amazing what kids read back then—very difficult novels. After all, there was radio, but no television or internet to take up one’s time. And Joan went to the movies a lot. The book also has her doodles she drew in the corners of her pages, so they are especially cute to see.

And I’m thrilled it’s been named by the Children's Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education to the Best Children's Book of the Year 2013 list (Memoir: Ages 14-up).

Now I’m planning to work on fiction set in the 1930s and 1940s. My mom’s life still inspires me!

Cynsational Notes

Check out the curriculum guide, book club discussion questions and excerpts.

Susan says: "In my blog, I try to include entries that link to a current event or issue, such as in this post that was one of the featured “Freshly Pressed” posts on WordPress.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In Memory: Barbara Park

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Junie B. Jones Creator Barbara Park Dies at 66 from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Children’s author Barbara Park, long appreciated for her stories that blend humor and heart, and best-known as the creator of irrepressible kindergartner Junie B. Jones, died on Friday, November 15, after a long battle with ovarian cancer."

Barbara Park, Junie B. Jones Author, Dead at 66 by Hilel Italie of the Associated Press from ABC News. Peek: "The publisher (Random House) says Park's stories of the smart-mouthed young girl sold more than 55 million copies just in North America."

From Random House, quoting Barbara Park:

"I've never been sure whether Junie B.'s fans love her in spite of her imperfections…or because of them. But either way, she's gone out into the world and made more friends than I ever dreamed possible."

More from Random House: "Barbara Park is also the author of award-winning middle-grade novels and bestselling picture books, including The Graduation of Jake Moon, Mick Harte Was Here, Skinnybones, and MA! There's Nothing to Do Here!: A Word from Your Baby in Waiting."

See also from CBS News: "Park helped found a charitable organization, Sisters in Survival, to raise money women with ovarian cancer. Random House announced that contributions can be made to www.sistersinsurvival.org."



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