Friday, December 05, 2014

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Why Picture Books Are Important by Debbie Ridpath Ohi from Picture Book Month. Peek: "I’ve been so enjoying reading the 'Why Picture Books Are Important' essays by children’s book authors and illustrators this past month as well as Marcie Colleen’s Curriculum Connections at the end of every post..." Note: Wrap-up post for the celebration.

The Melodrama Dilemma by Mary Kole from Peek: "...tension isn’t created with a lot of over-the-top adjectives."

Five Things I've Learned After Marketing My Young Adult Debut by Heather Marie from Latinos in Kidlit. Peek: "Being a writer means your job is never done and that is absolutely true. There will always be something you have to do, whether that’s your next manuscript, an interview, an event, etc. I’m excited for these things. I love it! But I always, always forget to take care of myself first."

A Dozen Things Debut Authors Have Taught Me by literary agent Erin Murphy from the Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Peek: "The people on your publishing team want you to succeed! They have invested in you because they think you’ve got what it takes over the long haul, so get the information you need to settle in for that long haul. Because, in case I didn’t say it clearly: It’s a long haul."

Are There Any Original Stories Left? by Kathy Yardly from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "The better question is: why are these genres, tropes and archetypes still popular?" See also Plotting the Non-Plot-Driven Novel by Donald Maass.

Kitten Envy by Katie Bircher from The Horn Book. Note: roundup of recent kitten-centric books.

Beyond the Basic Questions for the Agent Call by Martina Boone from QueryTrackerBlog. Peek: "...there’s a great deal to working with an agent beyond the initial submission, and listening to author friends and meeting other authors since I embarked on the publication process, I have discovered that managing expectations for all concerned would have been much easier with additional information up front." See also Remembering the Query Daze - A Writer Looks Back with Gratitude from Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Note: Lynda offers a critique giveaway.

Checklist for a Successful Skype Visit with an Author by Mary Amato from ALSC Blog. Peek: "...there are some tips and tricks that can help make the entire experience run smoothly and enjoyably. From the author’s point of view, here’s what you can do to be a great Skype partner..."

Irish Book Awards

Junior Winner: Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton; see also honor books.

Senior Winner: Moon Boy: The Blunder Years by Chris O'Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy; see honor books.

See also the 2015 Morris Debut Finalists and 2015 Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists from YALSA

Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of a signed copy of Writing New Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson was Lisa in California.

The winner of a signed copy of Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith was Josephine in Florida.

See also ReaderKidZ December Extravaganza Giveaway!

Cynsational Screening Room

Raise your voice for YA author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Fat Angie (Candlewick Press).

If you're a regular Cynsations reader, you know I'm on the advisory board of #WeNeedDiverseBooks and that we're in the midst of a fundraising campaign. There is still time to donate and signal boost. Thanks so much to all who've participated! See also: Interested in Helping #WeNeedDiverseBooks? Note: the video below has been edited to include baby pictures of the authors-illustrators!

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Congratulations to E. Kristin Anderson on the release of A Jab of Deep Urgency!

With Austin author Lindsey Lane at the Turkey Trot, benefiting Caritas Austin.

The Horn Book says of Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2015), "Since this Feral trilogy–ender also wraps up its companion series Tantalize, several major characters from those books appear here, but Clyde, Aimee, Yoshi, and Kayla ably carry this series right up to its bittersweet conclusion. Kayla’s full acceptance of her animal self, and the courage she gains in that acceptance, is particularly compelling. With its sharp humor and fully realized characters, this urban fantasy will leave readers hoping for another series from Smith—and soon." See the Feral series trailer!

Vote for Feral Curse!
Did you enjoy Feral Curse (Candlewick, 2014)? If so, please consider casting a vote for it (and other favorites) on the long list for the Teen Choice Book of the Year Award! Thanks!

See a thumbs-up review of Feral Curse by Debbie Reese from American Indians in Children's Literature. Note: review includes some spoilers.

Congratulations to Austin SCBWI Diversity Scholarship winner Linda Boyden! We look forward to seeing you at the Austin regional conference!

Congratulations to author and We Need Diverse Books president Ellen Oh for being named one of Publishers Weekly Notable Publishing People of 2014!

Personal Link of the Week: Anne Ursu on Children's Literature, Body Image, Eating Disorders and the Word "Fat" from Terrible Trivium. Peek: "This self-flagellation ritual, the 'I’m fat' kabuki, the ceremonial public confession of sin—passed on from woman to woman, mother to daughter, friend-to-friend, forever and ever—shaming themselves, yes, and teaching everyone around them they should be ashamed, too."

See also Diverse Books for the Holidays and Holiday Gift Guide to New LGBTQ Kids' Books.

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.

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.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

New Voices: Kirsten Lopresti on Bright Coin Moon

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Kirsten Lopresti is the first-time author of Bright Coin Moon (Sky Pony Press, 2014)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

Seventeen-year-old Lindsey Allen is an A-student who has her heart set on becoming an astronomer. But first she must break away from her mother, an eccentric failed beauty queen who has set up a phony psychic reading shop in their Oregon garage.

Lindsey is biding time until she graduates high school, reading tarot cards for the neighbors in her mother’s shop and recording the phases of the moon in her Moon Sign notebook. Her life changes when her mother, Debbie, decides they should move to California to become Hollywood psychics to the stars. 

As they pull out of the driveway, Lindsey looks up at the silver morning moon. It’s a bright coin moon, which means only one thing: what you leave behind today will rise up tomorrow.

When mother and daughter arrive in Los Angeles with new identities, they move into a leaky, run-down building and spend their nights stalking restaurants and movie premieres to catch that one celebrity they hope will be their ticket. 

When it seems they will never make it in LA, Lindsey is assigned a new mentor through her school. Joan is a lonely, wealthy widow who can’t get past the death of her husband, Saul. Debbie is convinced they’ve hit the jackpot, and plans for a future séance commence.

As Lindsey grows closer to Joan, guilt over the scam consumes her, and she must make the ultimate decision. But can she really betray her mother?

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

I prefer to write in the morning. If I have to, I can write at almost any time, provided I have enough caffeine, but it’s harder for me to get started and I’m much more likely to get distracted by other things. I think it’s true that you can train yourself to work best at certain times. I’m used to writing in the morning now, but when my daughters were babies, I used to write in the afternoon while they napped, and that worked well, too.

I have a small office in my home where I generally write. I’m always changing it around, so it’s been several colors, the latest of which is a dull, medium blue. I have two large bookshelves inside it, a reclining chair, and an old craftsman style desk that I bought off someone on Craigslist, after he told me it brought him good luck.

I also have one of those see-through bird feeders on the window. I like to stare at it when I’m stuck or procrastinating and see who shows up. There’s a woodpecker that frequents the feeder, and a bunch of bright yellow finches.

Once in a while, a squirrel will dive bomb it from the roof, and that’s always amusing to see.

Sometimes, if it’s a nice day, I’ll take my laptop outside and sit out on the screened porch. We have a bunch of big, old trees in the back yard, so it’s cool and shaded even in the summer.

We also have a pet rabbit who lives out there. He’ll hop around my feet while I work or jump up on the chair beside me to see what I’m doing. At one point, he hopped into my novel. One of the characters in Bright Coin Moon, a rich widow named Joan, also owns a rabbit.

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

I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve always had a good amount of support for my writing. My husband was very helpful the entire time I was writing Bright Coin Moon, and my parents always encouraged me to pursue my interests growing up.

I’ve also been a member of a writing group for several years. The group is made up of some of my fellow graduates of the George Mason University MFA program, and we meet pretty much every month.

We exchange work, and we attend events together, and we celebrate each other’s successes by going out for drinks or dinner. There are four of us who have been with the group since the start, and others who have moved in and out.

In the beginning, we were pretty formal. We made a schedule, and when your date came up, you had to come up with something to turn in, but as time went on, we loosened up. If someone has something to share, that person can certainly bring it in, but if not, the meeting will still go on. We’ll talk about books we’ve read or whatever trouble we’re facing with our manuscripts, or just about writing in general. If there is an event like Fall for the Book, which is a week-long festival put on by our Alma Mater, we will revolve around that for awhile, e-mailing each other and meeting up here and there on campus for various events.

I’ve found that the group is invaluable. Not just for feedback, but also to chat with about writing. Other writers just get you in a way that other people don’t. If you tell a normal, sane person you are down one day because several magazines rejected a story you wrote, the sane person might say, “You know, my cousin might know someone who can get you an office job.”

But another writer will say, “I’m going through that right now, too,” or she’ll tell you to try a new ending or something like that. Of course, I’m lucky that I still live fairly close to the school I attended, so I have this opportunity to stay in touch that I might not have had.

If you are looking for a critique group and are a YA or children’s writer, I highly recommend joining SCBWI. They have local chapters with events where you can meet other writers, and there are always sign-up sheets going around at meetings to help you find a group.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Giveaway: Four Middle Grade Novels by Greg Leitich Smith & Pterodactyl Puppet

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Enter to win a set of four signed copies of middle grade novels by Greg Leitich Smith and a pterodactyl puppet!

Today he makes his home in Austin, but Greg grew up on the north side of Chicago.

He is of German and Japanese heritage, and many of his characters are similarly mixed-race.

Greg holds degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, he holds a degree in law from The University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor. His interest in science and law has influenced his writing.

Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn (Roaring Brook)

Beach culture and UFOs collide in this lighthearted adventure story about an alien encounter at an aging Cocoa Beach motel.

Twelve-year-old Aidan lives and works at his parents’ motel on the Space Coast in Florida, so he’s seen a lot of weird stuff. Even his best friend, Louis, is a little bit crazy—he’s obsessed with UFOs and swears he saw one two years ago. But things at the Mercury Inn are about to get a whole lot weirder.
When an actual unidentified flying object suddenly appears in the sky over the motel, Aidan begins to realize that some of the residents of the Mercury Inn may be much more unusual than he thought. And Louis might not be so crazy after all.
Filled with quirky characters and atmosphere, this beachy alien caper, like the aging motel where it takes place, is anything but ordinary.

“In this gleefully absurd tale, Smith (Chronal Engine) unfurls a series of alien-inspired hijinks at a space-themed motel on Florida’s Space Coast…Arnold’s skillfully drafted spot cartoons give this offbeat story a lively layout and match Smith’s light and breezy tone, grounded by the occasional serious moment. The result is an engaging, humorous look at humans learning that they’re not alone in the universe.” –Publishers Weekly

Chronal Engine (Clarion)

Activity Kit
When Max, Emma, and Kyle are sent to live with their reclusive grandfather for the summer, they’re dismayed to learn he thinks there’s a time machine in the basement.

But when Grandpa Pierson predicts the exact time of his own heart attack, and when Emma is kidnapped by what can only be a time traveler, they realize he was telling the truth about the Chronal Engine. And if they want their sister back, they’ll have to do it themselves.

So Max and Kyle, together with their new friend Petra, pack up their grandpa’s VW and follow Emma and the kidnapper back in time, to Late Cretaceous Texas, where the sauropods and tyrannosaurs roam. Can the trio find Emma and survive the hazards of the Age of Dinosaurs, or are they, too, destined to become part of the fossil record?

“[T]his is exactly the book young dino fans would write themselves, crammed with sandbox-style action and positively packed with words like Nanotyrannus and Parasaurolophus. Great back matter clarifies fact from speculation, while Henry’s manga-inspired illustrations provide a good sense of the monsters’ scary scale.” – Booklist

Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo (IntoPrint, originally Little, Brown)
Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been a trio united against That Which Is The Peshtigo School. But suddenly it seems that understanding and sticking up for a best friend isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab.

Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start “hearing” his ancestors.

And Honoria, legal counsel extraordinaire, discovers that telling a best friend you like him, without actually telling him, is a lot harder than battling Goliath Reed or getting a piranha to become vegetarian.

What three best friends find out about the Land of the Rising Sun, Pygocentrus nattereri, and Galileo’s choice, among other things, makes for a hilarious and intelligent read filled with wit, wisdom, and a little bit of science.

“Smith’s sparkling debut offers three seventh grade narrators, each of them precocious, intelligent, and wickedly funny…Readers will identify with these smart characters and enjoy the vicarious attendance at their idiosyncratic school.” -Publishers Weekly

  • Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner 2003
  • Writers’ League of Texas Teddy Award, 2004
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • An ALA Popular Paperback for Young Adult Readers, 2006 

Tofu and T. rex (IntoPrint, originally Little, Brown)

Vegan Frederika Murchison-Kowalski returns to the Peshtigo School after a brief “hiatus.”
But she then discovers that she has to live with her grandfather, who just happens to own a butcher shop and sausage deli.

Not only that, Freddie’s cousin, Hans-Peter, is a diehard carnivore but needs Freddie’s insider knowledge to get accepted into the Peshtigo School himself.

Throw in a flaming dinosaur, a recipe for vegan kielbasa, and an accidental amputation, and this battle of generations, wills, and diets will have readers laughing out loud.

“This book will make kids laugh out loud.” –School Library Journal

“Tofu and T. rex captures the quirky eccentricities of small private schools, especially in the way they seem to foster and nurture quirky and eccentric (and highly intelligent if quixotic) personalities. This book is a fun read and a fitting continuance of the earlier work, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo.” –Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy

  • Finalist, Texas State Reading Association Golden Spur Award
  • Finalist, Writers' League of Texas Book Award

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway: Lorie Ann Grover on The Aftermath of a Book Launch

By Lorie Ann Grover
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

In true form, I dreamt of my novel as a baby, prior to the release. I dreamt I arrived, great with child, at my baby shower, and everyone left. Seriously. It’s not hard to find the symbolism.

Thankfully, my baby shower has been attended!

My book Hit (Blink, 2014) has launched. In the midst of the #hitwithgratitude tour with Justina Chen, I have a break between cities to sit and think of my words reaching the hands and eyes of readers. Sometime they connect, wholeheartedly. Other times they are mulled and considered. And then there are readers whose journeys don’t intersect well, and those folks walk on.

From one extreme to the other, it’s all a part of the release of a book into the world.

The beginning of Hit, began in 2004, when my daughter’s best friend was walking to school before dawn, and she was struck in the crosswalk. Her urgent brain surgery left her family and friends spinning through the long dark wait of her operation and recovery.

Inspired by her accident, I wrote my contemporary young adult novel, Hit.

In the story, Sarah is hit by the very teacher she is crushing on. I wanted to explore how in one moment dreams, hopes, and goals can be shattered. Yet, within the most difficult trial are sweet, red seeds. One tragic moment might give us the opportunity to stop, assess our pursuits, and help us realize we actually want to take a different road.

After the accident, I received permission from my friends to tell their story. Following the novel’s launch, I’m happy to say I’m still friends with all of the McCormicks, including Sarah! The family is so gracious and giving in the hope that their hardship might encourage another.

Just recently, Sarah texted me: “I’m in the airport!” when her husband’s cousin spotted copies of Hit on the bookstore shelf. The fact Sarah identified the fictional book she inspired with herself was a sweet comfort to me.

I’m also happy Hit is driving traffic to #redthumbreminder. The site is Steve Babcock’s simple, yet innovative solution to text safety. Embraced across the country, men and women are painting one thumbnail red to remind themselves not to text while driving. It worked for Steve, and he was able to break the habit. It’s working for Hit readers as well!

Polyvore has been a great way to create images and spread the word. My collection is growing. Hopefully it will be as pertinent and useful as the Gendercide Collection I built for Firstborn (Blink, 2014).

So that’s the aftermath of the launch.

From holding the first copy, to reviews, to parties and a tour, words are flying free.

May they land close to you, kind reader. Thanks for finding me at facebook, and thank you, Cyn!

I am #hitwithgratitude!

Cynsational Giveaway

U.S. only; publisher sponsored. No P.O. Boxes.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Guest Post: Janet Nolan on PB&J Hooray! Your Sandwich’s Amazing Journey from Farm to Table

By Janet Nolan
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I admit it.

I have a favorite sandwich. It’s peanut butter and jelly.

Loved it when I was a kid, and I still do.

So, when I first started thinking about writing a picture book that examined where our food comes from, I didn’t have to look any further than the ingredients in my favorite sandwich: peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

PB&J Hooray! Your Sandwich’s Amazing Journey from Farm to Table (Albert Whitman, 2014) begins:

Peanut butter,
PB&J Hooray!

Easy to make,
yummy to eat.
But where does the food come from?

The Grocery Store.

Visit Janet Nolan
Working in reverse order—in a question and answer format—the book takes readers through the shopping, delivery, production, harvesting, farming and planting processes.

The book ends with the planting of seeds for peanuts, grapes, and wheat.

In essence, PB&J Hooray! is the back-story for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When I want to learn something new, I know exactly where to go. I head to the children’s section of my local library. The chairs might be a little small and the tables a tad too short, but I’m like a kid in a candy store pulling books about farming, manufacturing, and shipping off the shelves.

I love the visual and visceral appeal of children’s books and believe the word usage and imagery is the great starting point for acquiring knowledge.

Once I feel I have a handle on a topic, which in this case was how peanuts, grapes, and wheat are grown, I’ll move onto other sources: articles, interviews, nonfiction adult books.

A surprising help in the researching of PB&J Hooray! turned out to be You Tube videos. It was great, sitting at my desk watching wheat being harvested, seeing grapes growing on long twisting vines, and tripping down memory lane when I stumbled upon an old Sesame Street video my kids must have watched a dozen times: A tour of a peanut better making factory accompanied by the catchy tune. I was singing the song for days.

Then comes the writing.

This book was particularly fun to write, because I had such a great time with the language.

Bread in the bread aisle,
peanut butter stacked on shelves,
jars of jelly lined up in a row.

Put in a shopping cart,
pay on the way out.
Carry into kitchens where sandwiches are made.
PB&J Hooray!

The repeated refrain allowed me to maintain the question and answer format, while continually returning the focus to the sandwich making experience, as I described how peanuts, grapes and wheat go from farm to table.

To add to the magic, I was blessed with an amazing illustrator, Julia Patton. She lives in Northumberland, England and had never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

She had her first—research for the book—and claims to have liked it! Her artwork is amazing; there is so much to see and absorb on each page.

Looking at the finished product feels as if I’ve gone full circle. I can imagine someone else, sitting in the children’s section of their local library, reading the book, and feeling the joy of learning something new.

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