Friday, February 06, 2015

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Courtney with agent John Cusick at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers.
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Congratulations to Courtney Alameda on the release of her debut novel, Shutter (Feiwell and Friends, 2015)(excerpt)! From the promotional copy:

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum.
As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens.
With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die.
Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

More News & Giveaways

Author Interview: Trent Reedy on Burning Nation by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: "I’ve written Divided We Fall and Burning Nation (both Scholastic) to show what happens when the bitterness over that [partisan] divide is carried out to its most disastrous potential."

Shining a Light: Announcing the Honorees for the 2015 28 Days Later Campaign: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf.

You Can't Take Blurbs with You from Jennifer Represents. Peek: "I've spoken to hundreds of readers, booksellers, librarians and others, and the fact is, the vast majority of the time, the blurb is not the deciding factor about whether or not they spend time and money on a given book. It's just not."

Author Interview: Pat Mora on Día, Children's Day Book Day by Amy Koester from ALSC Blog. Peek: "Spanish is the second most spoken language across our country; there are many others, of course. If we are committed to exciting all our children about bookjoy, we need to meet them where they are, as the saying goes."

Deadlines and the Muse by Juliet Marillier from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Fortunately, the final section of a novel tends to be the easiest to write. You know the characters inside out; you know how each of them will act and react, what they will and won’t say; you know how the threads of your story will come together to make that satisfying conclusion."

What The Incredibly Hulk Can Teach Us About Emotion in Fiction by Ron Estrada from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Most characters don’t wear their emotions on their quickly torn sleeves the way Bruce Banner does, and if they did, the resulting story would be pretty exhausting. Too much reaction dulls the impact when something genuinely serious transpires. Yet you do need to show how your character feels."

Dealing with the Publishing Blues by Stina Lindenblatt from QueryTracker. Peek: "Try writing something for yourself that no one will see. Experiment with a style you’ve always wanted to try or experiment with a new genre. If you’re on deadline, try writing a short story (or if you’re a fast writer, a novella). Have fun! But most of all, don’t set any expectations on yourself. Just let the passion you used to have for writing poke through."

Classroom Connections: Diverse Verse by Sylvia Vardell from Booklist Online. Peek: "Following is a list of novels, biographies, and memoirs in verse, published within the last five years, that reflect diverse experiences, cultures, and characters."

How Do I Respond to An Agent's Status Query? by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor. Peek: "The volume of emails that an agent gets in a day is large, and I’d err on the side of not adding to it unnecessarily."

Make Your First Page Mind Blowing, Please by Hilary Wagner from Middle Grade Mayhem. Peek: "It may be the manuscript that agent of your dreams has been searching for all year, but she'll never know it because she couldn’t get past the first boring formulaic mundane page of it and you just received a rejection email from her, faster than you could nuke your leftover pizza in the microwave."

What Exactly is Translation? by Yumiko Sakuma, translated by Deborah Iwabuchi from The Society of Writers, Editors and Translators. Peek: "...the translator must understand the style of the author, the mood, the characters, the setting, the subtle allusions, and the core of the plot."" Peek: Follows an introduction to the article by Deborah.

Take Yourself Seriously (As a Writer) by Kristi Holl from Writer's First Aid. Peek: "You’re creative–true. But you’re still in business if you want to make income from your writing. And often it is poor business attitudes that keep others from taking you seriously. Do an attitude check with the list below. Are you harboring these unhelpful attitudes?"

Why I Write for Teens by Carolee Dean from SouthWest Writers. Peek: "Teen stories are compelling because teens stand at a crossroads where childhood intersects with paths of infinite possibility, yet, as we all know, once you start down one of those paths, its not so easy to change your course."

Interview with Morris Award Finalist Isabel Quintero by Lynn Miller-Lachmann from The Pirate Tree. Peek: "As sexual as American culture pretends to be—I mean we see it everywhere: in advertising, television, movies, even in cartoons—we only see sexuality or sexual behavior as acceptable through a heterosexual male perspective, and I would go further and say that we only see sex exist as a heterosexual male fantasy." See also 24 MG-YA Novels by Latinos in 2015 from Latin@s in Kid Lit.

2014 LGBT YA Lit by the Numbers by Malinda Lo from Diversity in YA. Peek: "What started out for me as a geeky way to see where my own YA novels fit into the broader YA market has become an ongoing research project that has nothing to do with my books, and a lot more to do with analyzing and interrogating the way mainstream publishing produces stories about LGBT teens." See also the 2015 Rainbow List: GLBTQ Books for Teens from the The Rainbow Project, a joint project of the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) and Social Responsibilities Round Table (SSRT) of the American Library Association.

Is Your Character a Stargazer or a Naval-Gazer? from Christine Kohler. Peek: "Does your protagonist observe the world around him using his five senses? Or does she mutter inwardly to herself, totally self-absorbed?"

Can Better Understanding of Adolescent Psychology Help Us Craft Better Fiction? by Lee Wind from SCBWI Blog. Peek: "Teens often look to fiction for insights they might use in their real lives. So it may follow that in creating fiction, we can get insights into the characters we create by exploring real-world insights."

A Rose By Any Other Name Could Be...a Heather by Mary Ann Rodman from Teaching Authors. Peek: "I do not know how E.B. White decided on Charlotte and Wilbur, but can you imagine them named anything else? A book called Barbara's Web? A pig named Bob?"

What Makes a Good Math Storybook? by Audrey Quinlan from The Horn Book. Peek: "Students predict the capacity of each mitten by guessing how many marbles or beans will be needed to fill each one. A variety of mittens brought in by students could also be used for introducing relative size."

Jill Santopolo and Follow Your Heart: Love on the Lifts by Lisa Doan from The Launch Pad. Peek: "There are more than 7 billion people in the world. So if you go on a date with someone who makes you feel bad or smells funny or spends the entire time talking about his ex-girlfriend, that’s okay. You can always try again tomorrow (or the next day or the day after that)."

10 Editorial Steps from the Agent "Call" to the Final Book by Angela Ackerman from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "When we’re starting out as writers, we rarely look beyond the process of getting an agent. That hurdle on its own seems so huge, but truly, it’s just the beginning of the editorial journey our books will take."

Searching for an Agent with QueryTracker by Robert Lettrick from Project Mayhem. Peek: "What is Querytracker? In my opinion, it’s the premier website for researching literary agents and familiarizing yourself with their personal tastes and quirks. It also makes for a wonderful base-camp during the query process."

My Work Is Giving My Nighmares from Deborah Halverson at DearEditor.com. Peek: "...the story itself is giving me anxiety and causing unsettling dreams. I don’t want to spend the next several months having nightmares."

28 Days Later

Learn more about emerging and established children’s book creators of color via the eighth annual 28 Days Later campaign, a Black History Month celebration!

Each day during February, The Brown Bookshelf will showcase an outstanding author or illustrator. Thank you, Don Tate, Kelly Starling Lyons, Tameka Fryer Brown, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Gwendolyn Hooks, Crystal Allen, Varian Johnson, Paula Chase-Hyman!

Congratulations to Brown Bookshelf co-founder Varian Johnson on The Great Greene Heiste (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2014) being named a 2015 Notable Children's Book by the Association of Library Service to Children! See the whole list.

Cynsational Screening Room



Cynsational Giveaways




See also a giveaway of seven signed copies of We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree) at Goodreads.

This Week at Cynsations


More Personally

Welcome back to Cynsations!

What a busy hiatus it's been! I wrote a short story for Shaun Hutchinson's Violent Ends anthology (Simon Pulse), taught the VCFA winter residency, and then it was off to Chicago for The ALSC Day of Diversity at ALA Midwinter.

Now, I'm polishing a speech for this month's Austin SCBWI meeting (details below), to be followed by critiquing manuscripts for our regional conference, and after that, my full attention will turn to my MFA students' first packets.

Then what? Well, I'm also supposed to be foremost an author of books. At least in theory, right?

So, I'll launch Feral Pride (Candlewick, Feb. 2015)--the final novel in the Tantalize-Feral verse--and the paperback edition of Feral Curse (Candlewick, Feb. 2015) and then dive into my next YA manuscript in a big way.

Repeat after me: Living the Dream. Living the Dream!


Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature says of Feral Pride (Candlewick, 2015):

"The parts of the story where characters shift or are talking about clothes? Well, I find those parts exquisite and they make me wish I could see all of this on a movie screen. And the parts where characters from the Tantalize series join the characters in the Pride series? Well done!"

Note: Debbie also analyzes how the metaphors in Feral Pride relate to our real world.

Publishers Weekly says of Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves, edited by Ann Angel (Candlewick, 2015):

"Rather than providing tidy solutions to the characters’ dilemmas, the stories focus on the feelings of entrapment and anxiety that go along with living a lie." Booklist says: "The balance and diversity that Angel has achieved here is marvelous, and nearly any teen who picks this up will find a bit of herself or himself—or at least a friend—inside these pages. A collection to treasure and share widely."

 K.T. Horning of CCBC & Debbie Reese of AICL!
Note: The short story "Cupid's Beaux" by Cynthia Leitich Smith features the characters Joshua and Quincie from the Tantalize-Feral universe.

Hugs to those whose careers have been adversely affected by the closing of Egmont USA. See also An Open Letter to Egmont USA Authors from a Former Publishing Orphan from Sarah J. Schmitt. Note: Egmont USA books, including the spring 2015 list, are  available! Please show those authors your support!

Congratulations to Austin's own Carmen Oliver on the sale of her first book, The Favio Chavez Story, to Eerdmans! See Stepping Over the Threshold: The First Children's Book Contract by Carmen Oliver from Donna Janell Bowman.

Congratulations to Austin SCBWI RA Samantha Clark on signing with literary agent Rachel Orr of Prospect Agency, and congratulations to Rachel on signing Sam!

Congratulations to (former) WIFYR and (current) VCFA student Yamile Saied Mendez on being selected among the 2015 New Visions Finalists by Lee & Low!

Thank you ALSC, Candlewick Press & We Need Diverse Books for a great Day of Diversity in Chicago!
See ALA Midwinter Day of Diversity Recap & Reflections by Jason Low of Lee & Low. Peek: "Author Cynthia Letich Smith’s talk created a sense of urgency for me and humanized what is truly at stake. Readers of middle grade and YA novels age out every four years. How many kids have we lost already to adulthood?" Note: post provides links to the other great recaps.

My Links of the Week are:


More Cynsational Links

Jane Kurtz revises her speech (old-school style) at VCFA.

Cynsational Events

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.

Join Cynthia from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Saratoga Springs Public Library for a celebration in conjunction with Saratoga Reads! at Saratoga Springs, New York. Note: Cynthia will be presenting Jingle Dancer (2000), Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001) and Indian Shoes (2002)(all published by HarperColllins).

Cynthia will serve as the master class faculty member from June 19 to June 21 May 2 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, February 05, 2015

Cynsational Awards

2014 Cynsational Book of the Year!
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The height of awards season is upon us!

I watched the ALA Youth Media Awards via live stream while escorting a plumber around my master bath. He was amused that I could barely tear myself away long enough to wave at the shower.

He observed, "So, for you, this is like the Oscars!"

Yes, yes, it is.

I'm genuinely thrilled for all the winners and honorees! Shout outs below are directed at former workshop students, VCFA family, personal friends, critique pals, and author pals whose journeys and/or inspiration have significantly intersected with mine.

Children's-YA Book Awards


Congratulations to Jenny Offill, winner of the eighteenth annual Charlotte Zolotow Award for Picture Book Writing from the Cooperative Children's Book Center at The University of Wisconsin, Madison. See honor and commended books.

IRA Notable Book for a Global Society
Congratulations to winners of Notable Books for a Global Society from the International Reading Association! Shout outs to Skila Brown, Bethany Hegedus, Susan Kuklin, J. Patrick Lewis, Kekla Magoon, Duncan Tonatiuth, Tim Tingle, Dana Walrath, Jacqueline Woodson and Paula Yoo.

Congratulations to Candace Fleming, winner of the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award from Nonfiction! Shout out to honor winner Duncan Tonatiuth.

Congratulations to Anne M. Martin, winner of the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction! Shout out to honor winners Marla Frazee and Deborah Wiles.

Congratulations to the ALA Youth Media Award Winners and Honorees! Too many friends to mention, but a quick shout out to fellow VCFA faculty member Kekla Magoon and VCFA alumni Jandy Nelson and Julie Berry.

See also 2015 Popular Paperbacks from YALSA and 2015 Best YA Fiction from YALSA.  On the latter, shout outs to Michelle Knudsen, Gail Giles, Kekla Magoon, Jandy Nelson, Laurie Halse Anderson, Mary E. Pearson, Robin LaFevers, Deborah Wiles, and Emily Lockhart.

For post-game, try: Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking: The Post-Game Edition by Robin Smith from The Horn Book; Poetry = Newbery by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children.

More Awards

Congratulations to Andrea J. Loney, winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award and to Kara Stewart, the Honor Winner! Peek: "A first-time author and member of the Sappony tribe, Stewart is an Elementary School Literacy Coach and serves on the North Carolina State Advisory Council on Indian Education. She believes that it is vital for Native people to be reflected in an accurate, contemporary, and non-stereotypical way, and she wrote this story to honor her Sappony family, their resilience, and determination to keep their heritage alive. Stewart will receive a prize of $500." See also In the Spotlight: Kara Stewart from Prissy World.

Congratulations to Heidi Kim and Adria Quinones, winners of the 2014 On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award from SCBWI!

Congratulations to 2015 Thurber House Children's Writer-in-Residence Crystal Allen!

Congratulations to K.T. Horning, winner of the 2015 ALSC Distinguished Service Award!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

In Memory: Bonnie Christensen

Bonnie Christensen
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Farewell to Bonnie Christensen by Elizabeth Bluemle from Publishers Weekly. Peek:

"She radiated loveliness, both personally and in her work. She was a gifted and creative artist, author, illustrator, and print maker, active both locally and overseas in exhibitions and galleries."

Celebrated Authors and Illustrator Bonnie Christensen Dies at Age 63 by Mahnaz Dar from School Library Journal. Peek:

"'Bonnie was an extraordinary human being, full of laughter, wit, and playfulness,' recounts [author Leda] Schubert. 'To create one realistic illustration, she made borscht and threw it hither and yon, taking photos as she did so. Borscht stains pretty much anything it touches, so I’m sorry I didn’t get to see her kitchen afterwards.'” See also The Princess of Borscht (Roaring Brook, 2011).
Bonnie Christensen (1951-2015) from Seven Days. Peek:

"Of her more than 20 titles, the most acclaimed was Woodie Guthrie: Poet of the People (Alfred A. Knopf), whose images Booklist described as 'sinewy and emotionally compelling.' It won the Horn Book - Boston Globe Honor Award and was named a Publishers Weekly's Best Book of 2001 and a New York Times Notable Book."

Henry Holt, April 21, 2015
More Personally

Though we just missed teaching together there, Bonnie and I are both counted among members of the Vermont College of Fine Arts family.

She died in the midst of our winter 2015 residency and, consequently, we mourned her passing and celebrated her life and legacy with stories and the music of Elvis Presley. She is dearly missed.

My sympathies to her family, friends, colleagues, students and young readers.

I first connected with Bonnie through an anthology, In My Grandmother's House: Award-Winning Authors Tell Stories About Their Grandmothers (HarperCollins, 2005). She illustrated the book with drawings from photographs of the featured grandmothers, including my own Grandma Dorothy.

The emotional power of Bonnie's work far exceeded that of the inspirational photo and captures my grandmother at her spirited best. Bonnie gave the illustration to me, and it's one of my most precious personal touchstones.

Grandma Dorothy -- Thank you, Bonnie!



Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Guest Post & Giveaway: Cory Putnam Oakes on The Ten Commandments of the Productive and Sane Writer

By Cory Putnam Oakes
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

As much as we would like to commit our entire lives to writing, most of us live in the real world. We can’t afford to spend our time at Walden Pond or in a permanent, never-ending, writer’s retreat.

We fit in writing amongst our day jobs, our kids, our other commitments, and our daily lives.

This past year, I was blessed with a large amount of writing work. I was doing revisions and copy edits for Dinosaur Boy (2015), writing Dinosaur Boy Saves Mars (2016)(both Sourcebooks), and working on another project with my agent.

It was a crazy year, especially when you throw my two small kiddos into the mix.

I’m not saying that I managed to juggle everything perfectly. In fact, there were days and weeks there when I failed utterly. But I learned from the experience. And I ended up making ten promises to myself – commandments, if you will, for my future self – in the hopes that they will help me to stay sane and still produce work that I am proud of:

Cory Putnam Oakes
1. I will respect my writing time and hold it as sacred. It’s valuable and it’s worth defending and anybody who thinks otherwise just doesn’t get it and isn’t worthy of my attention.

2. I will recognize that despite my best efforts, there are days when writing Just. Isn’t. Happening. I will honor those days, and spend my time doing the Necessary Non-Writing Things, such as “Naming That Character in Chapter 4” or “Researching Chapter 9.”

3. I will recognize that there are days when even Necessary Non-Writing Things are too much. And on those days, I will reorganize my closet. Or bake things. Or binge watch "The Bachelor." Or do whatever else I need to do in order to regroup and recharge. I will take care of myself and I will not apologize for it.

4. I will hit my deadlines. Each and every time. Because I am a professional and that’s what professionals do.

5. I will plan for chaos. If I know it will take me ten days to do something, I will budget twelve. Because Things happen.

And the most likely time for Things to happen is right before a deadline. It’s like a main law of the universe.

6. I will be supportive of my fellow writers. I will root for them, laugh with them, cry with them, and commiserate with them. Because they are my people and they do the same for me.

Discussion & Activity Guide
7. I will not compare myself to other authors, my books to anybody else’s books, or my career to anybody else’s career. My journey is my own and I will respect it as such.

8. I will read. At least two books in my genre every month.

9. I will not sacrifice, in the name of “time management,” the thing that makes all the other things in my life possible. (We all have something, without which, the whole dang opry falls apart. For me, it’s my time spent on the treadmill. Whenever I have sacrificed this, in the name of “not having enough time” I have bitterly regretted it. I will make time for the things that matter.)

10. I will respect my own creative process and not pay undo attention to lists like this (which are, after all, written by other people about what works for them). I will do what works for me and it will be awesome.

If anyone has any further commandments to add to this list, I’m all ears! Who says we have to stop at ten, anyway? That’s like totally already been done.

Cynsational Notes

Cory is a former lawyer, a former Californian, and a current Mexican food enthusiast. When she’s not writing, Cory enjoys running, cooking, and hanging out with her husband and their two kiddos.

Cynsational Giveaway

A Junior Library Guild selection

Enter to win a signed, personalized (upon specification) copy of Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putnam Oakes (Sourcebooks, 2015) and furry prehistoric friend. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 02, 2015

VCFA Winter Residency & Cynsational Return

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Welcome back to Cynsations! I'll be posting sporadically until I'm up to speed for 2015.

It's been a busy winter, highlighted by teaching at the winter residency of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and speaking at ALA Midwinter in Chicago. Here a peek from VCFA:

Learn more about Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children & YAs.
Shelf shot at the campus bookstore in College Hall.
Co-teaching a workshop with Rita Williams-Garcia.
Celebrating Katherine Patterson's honorary doctorate from VCFA.
Toasting Katherine & clowning around with fellow faculty member Will Alexander.
Congratulations to the Darling Assassins (AKA graduating class of winter 2015)!


Cynsational Notes

Huge congrats to this morning's winners/honorees of the ALA Youth Media Awards! See my live-reaction fan-girl geek out @CynLeitichSmith!
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