Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Six Picture Book Biographies Show the Joy of Longer Lives by Lindsey McDivitt from A Is for Aging. Peek: "...these picture book bios offer huge benefits to kids—showing them adventure, creativity, and enjoyment, not only over the course of an evolving life, but well into old age."

Outlining: Why I Made the Switch and Tips for Trying It by Elizabeth S. Craig from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "...I’d have to outline for the one editor anyway, and I’d either have to be super-organized and not make any mistakes to get the other two out…or else I could try outlining all three of them. I became a reluctant outliner."

Three Tips to Surviving a Public Speaking Event by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Whatever the occasion, when it’s your turn to stand up in front of an audience, make them wait. Not too long, though." See also The Online Presence That's An Extension of Who You Are and What You Do (Or Is It Just a Fantasy?) by Jane Friedman from Writer Unboxed.

"Ya Gotta Pay Your Dues" by Donna Janell Bowman from The Writing Barn. Peek: "Even now, after a tiny bit of success in my publishing journey, I still find comfort in justifying a rejection as one step toward paying my dues (but I would love to receive a rejection addressed to Princess.)" See also Should Children's Authors Self-Publish? A Conversation with Two Literary Agents by Sangeeta Mehta from Jane Friedman.

Fear and Killing the Muse by Linden McNeilly from Quirk and Quill. Peek: "...with all that trepidation around us, controlling our every anxious breath as we try to create stories, what can we do?"

More Than Numbers by Megan Schliesman from CCBlogC. Peek: "...as we talk about numbers, which is an important dimension of the discussion about diversity and publishing, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the terrific books by people of color that are published each and every year." Note: highlights top titles of the year by African Americans. See also Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources by Jason Low from Lee & Low and Justice on the Lesson Plan by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich from the Brown Bookshelf.

Using Google Earth to Research Your Setting by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "...allows you to see the topography, or the terrain, of a setting. Is it hilly, flat, or somewhere in between?"

My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit, What I Learned and What I'd Do Differently Next Time by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Inkygirl.com. Peek: "Make sure you leave time for a Q&A, and coordinate with the teacher ahead of time so that he/she is able to have students prepare questions in advance."

Jacqueline Woodson: "I Don't Want Anyone to Feel Invisible" by Michelle Dean from The Guardian. Peek: "Woodson says she began writing the book when her mother died suddenly. She described the death as a “wake-up call that the people I love, and the people who know my story, and the people who know my history are not always going to be here.” Writing became a quest to make sure some kind of record existed."

Writing Non-Human Characters by Cavan Scott from An Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Peek: "A race of non-humans should never have the same characteristics, unless perhaps if they are a true hive mind. Similar traits maybe, but there should be individuality there."

Becoming a Better Writer in 2015 by Barbara O'Neil from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Maybe one is that I’m going to write about things that scare me, or things that are secret. I might only write those things for myself, as an exercise, but maybe I’ll write them into the work of my novels, too."

Picture Book Month


"Founder Dianne de Las Casas (author & storyteller) and co-founders, Katie Davis (author/illustrator), Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author/illustrator), Tara Lazar (author), and Wendy Martin (author/illustrator), put together their worldwide connections to make this happen.

"Every day in November, there is a new post from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important." Each also features teacher guides and curriculum connections."

Learn more from and about the work of:

Arree Chung


We Need Diverse Books

The fundraising campaign is ongoing and will close Dec. 10. Thanks to all for donating, signal-boosting and participating in the larger conversation in children's-YA books!

"First we announced that we reached our initial goal of 100K. Now we can announce we have reached both of our first two stretch goals! Thank you so much for making this possible, and now it's time announce our third stretch goal:

$150,000 and beyond: Sustainability

"The problem with diversity in children's literature won't be solved over night or even in a year. Battling entrenched barriers for diverse books takes sustained effort. Your donations from here on out, every single dollar, helps WNDB maintain our long-term viability and to continue to change the face of children's literature for years to come."

See also The Problem with Ethic Heritage Months from Lee & Low and A Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity from Grace Lin (PDF).

Kid Lit for Haiti

Kid Lit for Haiti is an online auction featuring talent donated by authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents. 100% of the proceeds benefit the students supported by the 501c3 nonprofit organization called The Friends of Haiti Inc. All money from this auction will be used for scholarships for students in Haiti.

Participants in the auction include: Stephen Mooser, co-founder of the SCBWI and author of more than 60 books; Melissa Manlove, editor at Chronicle Books; Ingrid Law, Newbery Honor author; Jen Rofe, agent at Andrea Brown Literary; Matt de la Pena, acclaimed author; Denise Vega, two-time Colorado Book Award winner; Giuseppe Castellano, art director at Penguin Random House; Dan Lazar, agent at Writers House, and many more (found on blog at Kid Lit for Haiti).

Cynsational Giveaways

See also a two-book giveaway of The Good-Pie Party by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton from Tara Lazar at Picture Book Idea Month and a giveaway Utopia, Iowa by Brian Yansky from Goodreads.

This Week at Cynsations


More Personally

It's a short week here at Cynsations! Lots to do around the house. I'm taking off early for the holiday and will be back on Monday. Cynsational readers, I am thankful for you!

Playing at Alamo Drafthouse with fellow Austin authors Cory Putnam Oakes...

and Greg Leitich Smith! Learn more about "Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1."

See a review of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" by Shoshana Flax from The Horn Book.

Rain talks about Thanksgiving...
Link of the Week: Thanksgiving: What It Means for Native Americans: An Audio Interview with Suzan Shown Harjo from The TakeAway with John Hockenberry. Peek: After discussing the conflicting concepts of many Native people (a day of mourning) versus most others in the U.S. (a day of celebration) with regard to Thanksgiving, she says in part, "Giving thanks is a genuine Native tradition, and it's a wonderful tradition, and I especially like the idea of a feast that everyone's having that is comprised soley--if you do it right--of Native foods." See also Suzan Shown Harjo Receives Presidential Medal of Honor.

Another Link of the Week: Writing Native Lives in YA: An NYPL Discussion by Matia Burnett from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Thinking in conventional editorial terms, Klein sought solutions to what she perceived as persistent questions in the book, and looked to other works of young adult literature as models. But many of these models, she came to realize, derive from western literary archetypes..." See also a full recording of the event.

Even More Personally


What a thrill it was yesterday to celebrate fellow Austin children's writer Betty X. Davis's 99th birthday--still playing tennis, still writing, still quick with a joke. Betty: "People ask me what's my secret to a long life." Dramatic pause. "I started young."

Personal Links


Cynsational Events

Cynthia Leitich Smith will speak at the American Library Association MidWinter Convention in Chicago from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. Details TBA.

Now Available!
Pre-order Now!
Cynthia will speak on "Writing Across Identity Markers" at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting at BookPeople in Austin.

The SCBWI Austin 2015 Writers and Illustrators Working Conference will take place March 7 and March 8 at Marriott Austin South. Note: Cynthia will be moderating a panel and offering both critiques and consultations.

Cynthia will appear from April 14 to April 17 at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Texas Library Association in Austin.

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 at the VCFA Alumni Mini-Residency in Montpelier, Vermont.

Cynthia will speak from June 25 to June 30 on a We Need Diverse Books panel at the 2015 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in San Francisco.

http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giveaway: ARC of Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win a signed advanced reader copy of Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligibility: North America. From the promotional copy:

...this lyrical novel that will break your heart and lift your spirit.

Peter Stone’s parents and siblings are extroverts, musicians, and yellers—and the louder they get, the less Peter talks, or even moves, until he practically fits his last name. When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a tranquil, natural valley where he can, at last, hear himself think.

There, he meets a girl his age: Annie Blythe. Annie tells Peter she’s a “wish girl.” But Annie isn’t just any wish girl; she’s a “Make-A-Wish Girl.” And in two weeks she will begin a dangerous treatment to try and stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her. But the treatment may cause serious, lasting damage to her brain.

Annie and Peter hatch a plan to escape into the valley, which they begin to think is magical. But the pair soon discovers that the valley—and life—may have other plans for them. And sometimes wishes come true in ways they would never expect.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Voice: Cori McCarthy on The Color of Rain

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Cori McCarthy is the first-time author of The Color of Rain (Running Press, 2013). From the promotional copy:

If there is one thing that seventeen-year-old Rain knows and knows well, it is survival. Caring for her little brother, Walker, who is “Touched,” and losing the rest of her family to the same disease, Rain has long had to fend for herself on the bleak, dangerous streets of Earth City. 

When she looks to the stars, Rain sees escape and the only possible cure for Walker. And when a darkly handsome and mysterious captain named Johnny offers her passage to the Edge, Rain immediately boards his spaceship. Her only price: her “willingness.”

The Void cloaks many secrets, and Rain quickly discovers that Johnny’s ship serves as host for an underground slave trade for the Touched . . . and a prostitution ring for Johnny’s girls. 

With hair as red as the bracelet that indicates her status on the ship, the feeling of being a marked target is not helpful in Rain’s quest to escape. Even worse, Rain is unsure if she will be able to pay the costs of love, family, hope, and self-preservation.

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?

When I sat down to write what would become my debut, The Color of Rain, I knew that I was going to be stepping right off the edgy map. You see my main character, Rain, is a prostitute.

A space prostitute to be exact.

I suspected that I’d get frowns from parents, be banned from “clean” YA bookshelves, and that my oh-so-proud mom would not be able to hand this book around to her church friends. And yet, Rain’s story was more important to me than its obvious obstacles.

You might ask why.

Well, while there are a multitude of great stories about noble sacrifice and the glory of love, I felt compelled to talk about the other story—what happens when someone goes too far for love—when love leaves you with regret and shame instead of Happily Ever After feelings.

It does happen. It happened to me. And it definitely happens to teenagers more regularly than the rest of the population. So I wrote this super edgy story for those people with the hopeful message that there is a light at the end of the tunnel no matter what—or in Rain’s case, a light at the end of the Known Universe.

In my new book, Breaking Sky (Sourcebooks, 2015), I’ve come up against a whole new world of edgy complications.

My new main character, Chase, is unlikeable. Capital U. Self-centered, showoff, maverick—she’s a top fighter pilot at an Air Force academy for teens who keeps her eye on breaking a cold war standoff with Asia—and not on the people in her life.

Like Rain, Chase’s backstory harbors great disappointment, and in response to that hurt, Chase has closed herself off.

How is this edgy? Well, Chase has a reputation for leading on romantic interests for nothing more than a quick make-out session. Nothing deeper.

My beta readers for this story wondered where Chase’s heart-breaker status came from, and the answer to that has become as important to me as showing teen readers the flipside of love in Rain. In short, Chase’s story is about being careless with others. About isolating yourself from anyone who can hurt you—and then the long road back to caring.

After these two books, what I’ve learned about “edgy” is that it can be a powerful force in telling the toughest of emotional stories. For Rain, I chose an edgy premise that was as impossible to swallow as the enormous feelings behind her regret, and with Chase, I created a girl who hurt others in an attempt to keep anyone from ever hurting her ever again.

Could I have told these stories without edgy red flags like prostitution, human trafficking, swears, and “make-out sluts?”

Maybe. But I doubt they would hit home, feel real, and echo through the reader’s deepest life turns.

In the end, I want every reader who identifies with my story to come away feeling like they’re not alone. That may seem a little hokey, but hey, books have always been there for me.

If I can contribute to the great emotional library in any way, I’ll die happy.

As someone with a MFA in Writing for Children (and Young Adults), how did your education help you advance in your craft? What advice do you have for other MFA students/graduates in making the transition between school and publishing as a business?

Vermont College of Fine Arts
I would not be an author without the education I received at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Basically, my MFA turned my passion into a career.

I started writing when I was thirteen, poems mostly and a few memoir-type short stories. From eighth grade on, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was a bit overwhelmed by the naysayers. The people who believe that paying money to study fine arts is a waste.

Luckily for me, I had parents who encouraged me to major in creative writing in undergrad. I attended Ohio University, which had an underdeveloped creative writing program and workshops that were overwhelmed by geology majors. I was depressed to be writing with people who took my major’s classes as a joke or an “easy pass.”

Relief came via a year abroad in Dublin, Ireland where I wandered constantly and filled notebooks full of poetry. When I came back to Ohio, I finished my degree and set my sights on film school and screenwriting.

Secretly, I still believed that I would not be able to be a writer unless I made money, and film…that’s where the money had to be, right? Wrong.

Years later while still scribbling in notebooks and writing a fantasy story that had 200 pages of backstory—no joke—I found out about VCFA.

With fellow YA author Amy Rose Capetta
The program completely changed my life overnight.

It taught me hard things, like throwing out that evil temptress of a fantasy novel, and glorious things, like how I could put myself into anything I wanted to write.

I recently heard another author ask what an MFA is good for if you don’t want to write the Great American Novel or short stories.

I was so appalled by that question.

No one at VCFA told me what to write.

No one told me how to write it.

What my mentors and my peers in workshop did for my work was to read whatever I was writing and talk about it openly and honestly.

They taught me how to recognize the easy shortcomings in my writing and how to take the criticism on the not-so-easy shortcomings.

Beyond the glorious craft talk at VCFA, there were many open discussions about literature, the market, the publishing industry, the importance of networking, and the ups and downs of this business.

This proved to be essential in launching my career.

After I graduated, I landed my top agent, but not because she fell in love with my creative thesis—because I didn’t run away with my fingers in my ears when she asked if I had something else.

Not even a year later, that something else sold as The Color of Rain.

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