Friday, March 21, 2014

Cynsational News

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Cover Reveal: Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life by P.J. Hoover (Starscape/Macmillan) from Roots in Myth.

How I Got Into Publishing by Simon & Schuster Editor Zareen Jaffery from CBC Diversity. Peek: "What people don’t tell you about publishing is that more than half your job requires being social—this is an industry based on relationships. Those 'connections' I had been afraid of before I started my career were more about having people vouch for your work ethic than about nepotism."

Hands Across the Sea: "dedicated to raising literacy levels in Caribbean children."

Seasonal Writing Disorder by Lydia Sharp from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "I am a victim of the earth’s annual weather cycle in the region that I live. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, and it pretty much rules my writing process. Does this mean I am not a professional writer? No. It means I have a mental circumstance to work around."

10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls from CBC Diversity: Diversity in YA. Peek: "In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 10 diverse young adult historical novels about girls." See also 10 Great Women of Color Whose Stories You Should Know from Lee & Low.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out: An Interview with Susan Kuklin by E.M. Kokie from The Pirate Tree: Social Justice and Children's Literature. Peek: "...she’d tell her client about the book and about me. If they were interested, she gave them my contact information. From that point on the relationship was between the teenager and me. Everyone who called was included in the book. No one was rejected. This process – from the first queries to the first participant’s phone call – took close to a year." See also part two.

Young Adult Mastermind Cecil Castellucci: "There's No Way I Can Write a 'Hunger Games'" by Sara Scribner from Salon.com. Peek: "I do think that writing contemporary young-adult fiction in these days in extremely difficult and I think that’s why you find a lot of books set in the ’80s, before there was Internet or mobile phones, because once you start having the technology..."

Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books? by Walter Dean Myers from The New York Times. Peek: "In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature, the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares." See also The Apartheid of Children's Literature by Christopher Myers from The New York Times and both Diversity in Kid Lit "On Fire" at National Latino Children's Literature Conference by Lila Quintero Weaver and the 2014 International Latino Book Award Finalists from Latin@s in Kid Lit.

Conflict Resolution: Upside Down by Eileen Cook from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "Common feedback from editors or agents is that the story is missing enough conflict. So how do you increase it? The same techniques I use for counseling can be used in fiction, only instead of reducing conflict, they can provide a springboard to take your conflict to the next level."

2014 Spur Awards

From the Western Writers of America: "given for works whose inspiration, image, and literary excellence best represent the reality and spirit of the American West."



See finalists in each category. Note: Congratulations to Tim Tingle, whose How I Became a Ghost (Roadrunner Press) was a finalist in Juvenile Fiction.

See also 2014 Indies Choice, E.B. White Read-Aloud Finalists from Publishers Weekly. Source: Bookshelves of Doom.

Short Lists & Finalists

Cynsational Giveaway

The winner of Robot Burp Head Smartypants by Annette Simon (Candlewick) is Akiko in Texas.

Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Eligibility: fiction of any genre for any age group, including picture books. Deadline: midnight, March 22, 2014.

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

This sudden, plummeting treepocalypse in the back yard missed me by literally two inches. Whew!

Piñatas of Willie Nelson & Lil Wayne, by Brian Anderson for "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Wowed by Austin children's author Brian Anderson's piñatas? Check out the Piñata Boy website!

My revision of Feral Pride (Book 3 in the Feral series) continues! It's going well, but time is short and I have events coming up. Though mid April or so, I will be re-posting some of the best articles from Cynsations' past, along with roundups and breaking news.

Describing Aimee from the Feral series in One Sentence from YA Series Insider.

Congratulations to fellow Austinite Chris Barton on the sale of his six-book series Super Truck to HarperCollins! See also Eliza Wright's announcement of Our Baby by Varsha Bajaj (Nancy Paulsen).

Personal Links

Cynsational Events

The SCBWI-OK Conference will be March 29 in Oklahoma City. Speakers are: Liza Kaplan, Editor, Philomel; Melissa Manlove, Editor, Chronicle; Andrew Harwell, Editor, HarperCollins; Colleen AF Venerable, Design Editor, First Second and author of Guinea PI series; Kristin Miller-Vincent, Agent, D4EO Literary Agency; Tricia Lawrence, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary. See more information and registration.

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers will be held June 16 to June 21 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. Keynote speaker: James Dashner; faculty includes Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. Learn about the WIFYR Fellowship Award. See also Alison L. Randall on Choosing a Writing Conference.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Trailer: Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante (Putnam, 2014). From the promotional copy:

Lionel and Anisa are the best of friends and have seen each other through some pretty tough times--Anisa's dad died and Lionel's dad left, which is like a death for Lionel. They stick together no matter what. 

So when Lionel suggests a detour through a local construction site on their way home, Anisa doesn't say no.

And that's where Lionel and Anisa make a startling discovery--a baby abandoned in a port-o-potty. Anisa and Lionel spring into action. And in saving Baby Doe, they end up saving so much more.

Danette Vigilante crafts an accessible, heartfelt and much needed story for the middle grade market featuring Latino characters.

Source: Elizabeth Bird at A Fuse Eight Production

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Voice: Sara B. Larson on Defy

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Sara B. Larson is the first-time author of Defy (Scholastic, 2014). From the promotional copy:

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. 

But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. 

With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

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

I have three young kids at home and my husband travels every other week, so finding consistent time to write is…hard. I have to make it happen whenever I can. Usually at night after the kids are in bed. Tuesday and Thursday mornings there are a couple of hours when all three kids are in school, so I usually try to split up that time between shopping for groceries or running errands (going to the store without little beggars in tow is such a luxury!) and time for uninterrupted writing.

It’s always a juggling act. Whenever I have time to write when I’m home I think: I could clean and/or organize my house right now, or I could write. I could work on my photo albums that are now almost a year behind, or I could write. I could watch TV or a movie or sleep, or I could write.

The majority of the time, writing wins, because it has to.

Where I write varies on the day and time.

Sometimes I write in the café at my gym.

Sometimes I sit on my couch with the fire going.

Sometimes my laptop is on my dining table and I use my headphones to listen to my music.

Sometimes, I go hide in my room while my husband watches the kids on the weekends, and sit on my bed to write.

For Christmas this year, my husband turned our plain front room into a beautiful library/piano room, complete with a dream wall-to-wall bookshelf (that he built from scratch himself!) and a sound system I can use for my music.

I love writing in that room, with the music turned way up. I just love having my music swelling around me as I type furiously, the story just flying out of my mind to my fingers, onto the keyboard.

That is one of the best feelings in the world!

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited? 

Josh & Sara
My agent, Josh Adams, is the one who submitted Defy to Lisa Sandell at Scholastic.

I hadn’t met her before, but I was (and am) a huge fan of many books she’s edited, including The False Prince series by Jennifer A. Nielsen. That is absolutely one of my favorite reads in recent years. Jaron is such a smart, fun protagonist.

She is also Matthew Kirby and Kimberley Griffiths Little’s editor, and I love their books as well, so I knew she was an excellent editor.

And she was so incredibly enthusiastic for Defy, and still is, I was blown away by her excitement for my book and her vision of how we would go about editing it together.

And now, having worked with her, I can attest to the fact of how wonderful she truly is. The collaborative process with Lisa has been really fun, and not at all stressful, like I thought it might be working with an editor. She’s so thoughtful and conscientious. I love taking my stories to the next level with her.

She truly “gets” my characters and my stories, and that is so important in working together on something that means so much to me.

Sara & Lisa
I’ve also met her, last August, and she was just as lovely in person as she has been through all of our communications. I feel very blessed to get to work with her!

My agent really was right when he said he thought we’d work well together. He’s a smart guy!

Sara on vacation in a Mexican jungle

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Highlights Writing Retreat Scholarship Opportunity

Courtesy of Kristy Dempsey
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

In 2008, several children's writers joined together for a retreat in Boyds Mills, Pennsylvania, the home of Highlights Magazine and the wonderful Highlights Foundation.

We were all working on different stories in different genres, and so we planned a working retreat, not one where we would meet often to learn from a speaker, but one that would allow us the time we needed to dive deep into our stories and come up for air when we needed it.

As it turned out, we usually came up for air about 4 p.m. every day, meeting together to share not only what we had written, but also a few tears and a lot of laughter.

The time we spent alone writing and the time we spent together encouraging one another was important for the stories we were working on at the time and to prepare us for the stories we would work on after our retreat at Boyds Mills. It was so important for us that we want to provide the same opportunity for another writer. The Highlights Foundation is offering Unworkshops during various dates throughout 2014. Consider it time to get away and write what your heart most wants to work on. We can't work it out for any of us to go back right now, so we're sending one of you!

If you are a sincere and dedicated writer who could use this focused time, our retreat group is offering a five-night's stay at a Highlights Foundation Unworkshop, daily writing prompts/encouragement from the members of our retreat group (picture book, nonfiction, middle grade and young adult authors) for the length of your workshop and hopefully even a Skype gab session with one or more of us during your Unworkshop (depending on dates and availability.)

Highlights Foundation cabin
(You would be responsible for your own transportation to Boyds Mills.)

To qualify for consideration for this prize, send a statement by March 31 (to retreatscholarship@gmail.com) explaining why this retreat could be important to you as a writer/illustrator of children's literature. Share a little about the project you would plan to work on during the retreat and your experience writing or illustrating for children. We'll consider all entries and announce the recipient on April 15.

Happy Writing!

Monday, March 17, 2014

In Memory: Cynthia Chapman Willis

Compiled by Alison Ashley Formento
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Middle grade author Cynthia Chapman Willis left this world on March 3.

According to her family, she didn't want anyone to be sad at her passing. That embodies the kind of woman and giving author friend Cindy was to so many, and those that knew her could not help but be dazzled by her lovely smile and giving nature. Her determination and strength to beat cancer and continue writing never wavered.

She was a founding member of The KidLit Authors Club and always had a natural, friendly connection with readers she met at author appearances. She loved animals and writing, and the best way to honor this memory of this special author is to read her wonderful middle grade books Buck Fever and Dog Gone (Feiwel & Friends).

From My Central Jersey: "Cynthia Chapman Willis, 52, passed away on Monday, March 3, 2014. Born in Mount Vernon, NY, she resided in Whitehouse Station until moving to Neshanic Station nine years ago. Cynthia enjoyed yoga, swimming, and traveling. Her passion was horseback riding and riding competitions. Cynthia had a love for all animals, especially Siamese cats. She volunteered her time to organizations that helped animals."

More Thoughts & Memories

"Cynthia Chapman Willis, full of heart and always in our hearts." -The KidLit Authors Club

"Cindy was the lightbulb before Edison invented it. She lit up any room she entered. Her writing reflected her warmth and the beauty of her soul." -Wiley Blevins

"Cindy joined the Chudney Agency way back in 2003, and I so enjoyed working with her. She was a terrific writer and was getting better and better with each novel. 
"We had a really tough time placing her first novel, Dog Gone, but I loved it and we persevered and we were finally so pleased with it's publication with Liz Szabla at Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, who also published her other novel, Buck Fever. 
"Cindy was hard working, always open to listening to thoughts about her writing, and never shied away from revisions. She had a great sense of humor and we had many good laughs. 
"I know she will be missed." -Steven Chudney

"It's an honor to have known Cynthia. She had an inner (and outer) spark and a special ability to truly to connect with others. She always encouraged me, through tough rejections and revisions, to keep doing the work. She will continue to inspire me." -Alison Ashley Formento

"I never met Cynthia, but in the few email exchanges we had, her grace and generosity of spirit shone through. As it does in her photographs, with that warm, beautiful smile of hers."-Kit Grindstaff

"Cindy was a wonderful critique partner, always generous with her knowledge, celebrating when I had success, and commiserating when I received rejections. My life and my writing are better for having known her." -Shannon Hitchcock

"Cynthia and I interacted mostly through our writer blogs. She always left warm, thoughtful, encouraging feedback--for me and for my guest bloggers." -Jennifer R. Hubbard

"The first time I met Cynthia, I was sitting next to her at a B&N signing. I was new to the game and feeling discouraged by the slow traffic through the store—also wondering if it was going to be a competitive scenario at this group event. But Cynthia quickly showed me that it was anything but.
"Warm and gentle, she was a reassuring presence as she very honestly shared her own experiences and encouraged me to be persistent and patient. Whenever I saw her after that, it was Pavlovian—I instantly felt a sense of calm and belonging. She pretty much epitomized everything that is lovely and wonderful in the kid lit world." -Elisa Ludwig


Photo: ESA/Hubble; see memorial by Cynthia's sister Carey.
"I met Cynthia when Dog Gone first came out and she was speaking to teachers about how it could be used in the classroom. Her warm smile and lovely manner captivated us all.
"In the years that followed, Cynthia was a wonderful asset to the KidLit Authors Club, and anyone she met instantly became a good friend." -Nancy Viau


"Cynthia and I once did a signing event at a B&N in Pennsylvania where no one bought any of our books or even spoke to us. We had a wonderful time just chatting." -Tim Young


More tributes to Cynthia may be found on her Facebook page; see also RIP Cynthia Chapman Willis from Shannon Hitchcock's Pen and Prose (featuring a wonderful blog post with Cynthia's sweet vlog about her book Dog Gone). You can learn more about her work at her official author site.

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