Friday, October 16, 2015

Cynsational News & Giveaways

National Book Award Finalist
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Six Key Points from the U.K. Study on Diversity in Publishing by Hannah Ehrlich from Lee & Low. Peek: "Diverse authors often felt that they were encouraged–or pushed–into the literary fiction genre. This means that authors of color are often at a commercial disadvantage, especially if they want to be full-time novelists."

Recommended Children's-YA Books and Related Resources for LGBTQ Youth by Lee Wind from I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "...the handful of books I brought to illustrate the power of books to spark conversations and be those mirrors and doors were...."

Planning a Novel: Character Arc in a Nutshell by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "Physical needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization are all part of what it is to be human."

Finalists Unveiled for the National Book Awards from NPR. Note: see "Young People's Literature."

Nominees for the Forest of Reading Awards from the Ontario Library Association.

Writing the Cozy Mystery from Elizabeth S. Craig. Peek: "If you’re using guns, be accurate but move away from a lot of forensic detail…keeping it simple. In a cozy, the focus is on the puzzle itself."

Put Your Setting to Work by C.C. Hunter from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "...oftentimes the contrast between setting and character’s mood, or setting and character’s personality, can also be a useful tool."

Audio Poetry by Sylvia Vardell from Poetry for Children. Peek: "I'm presenting along with the lovely Rose Brock on 'Through the Looking and Listening Glass: How Audiobooks Channel Culture and Impact Literacy.' My focus? Poetry, of course! So, here's the scoop for those of you who can't be there!"

This Week at Cynsations


Cynsational Giveaways


Winners of signed ARCs of Brooke's Not-So-Perfect Plan (Confidentially Yours, Book 1) and Vanessa's Fashion Face-Off (Confidentially Yours, Book 2)(both HarperCollins, 2016) by Jo Whittemore were Cindy in Connecticut and Shannon in Florida.


More Personally

This week's highlight was the Freedom Tour event, featuring author-illustrator Don Tate and authors Kelly Starling Lyons and Chris Barton, at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in Austin.

Cake by Akiko White, celebrating Don's book, Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree, 2015)

Authors, illustrators & librarians gather to celebrate!

Local elementary students acted out readers' theaters of three of the books.
Looking for writing advice? My words are the Quote of the Week at The Little Crooked Cottage.

Reminder! Want to read something spooky? The electronic editions of Diabolical and Feral Curse (both Candlewick), are on sale this month for $1.99!

Another Reminder! I will be featured at the 20th Anniversary Texas Book Festival on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 in Austin. I look forward to joining Ann Angel and Varian Johnson in discussing the anthology Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves (Candlewick, 2015).

Personal Links

#MoreWomen Video 
$6,000: What It Costs to House a Homeless Family
What Mysteries Will the New X-Files Hold?
Freshmen Not Emotionally Ready for College
Goodbye "He" and "She" and Hello to "Ze"?
Diversity at New York Comic Con
Feeling Like an Old Geezer at the New Social Media Party 
Horn Book Review of Patrick Ness's The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Alaska Renames "Columbus Day" as "Indigenous Peoples' Day)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Voice & Giveaway: Laurie Wallmark on Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Laurie Wallmark is the first-author of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. 

When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world's first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.

Could you describe both your pre-and-post contract revision process? What did you learn along the way? How did you feel at each stage? What advice do you have for other writers on the subject of revision?

Like everyone else, I did many, many revisions before I thought the manuscript ready to submit. In June 2013, I had a manuscript critique at the New Jersey SCBWI conference with Ginger Harris of the Liza Royce Agency. She and her partner, Liza Fleissig, both thought the manuscript showed promise and would be of interest to Marissa Moss of Creston Books.

1,000 lucky paper cranes
I did a revision for them, and then they sent it to Creston Books. Marissa like the story enough to send me a revise and resubmit letter—four times!

It was at this point that I began to lose hope. Would she ever think Ada’s story good enough to acquire?

Apparently she would, since at that point, Marissa offered a contract. But the revisions didn’t stop there. I did about ten more before she thought the text was ready to pass on to the illustrator, April Chu.

Of course, not all ten were major revisions, but every word had to be just right, since a picture book has so few of them.

The biggest thing I learned along the way is that no matter how good you think your manuscript is, it can always be made better. The second was a good editor is invaluable.

My biggest advice to other writers is to be open to changes.

No, you don’t have to take every suggestion offered, but you need to seriously consider each one. Remember, this takes time.



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?

Laurie Wallmark
I love STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and wanted to share this love with young readers—not just with geeks like me, but with all children, no matter how STEM-phobic they may be.

Many children say they hate STEM or worse, they’re bad at it. As a society, we need to turn this perception around. Children are growing up in a high-tech world and need to feel comfortable in it.

But the question for me was, how could I make STEM interesting and fun for children through my writing while avoiding the dreaded “issues” book?

I realized a picture book biography is an ideal medium to introduce STEM concepts and facts to young readers. Instead of only offering STEM content through dry, boring textbooks, teachers could use picture book biographies to immerse children in the subject matter. They could enjoy a story while learning STEM along the way. I think of this as guerilla teaching.

Once I decided I’d write a biography, I had to choose a person to profile. I’m drawn to writing about strong, under-appreciated women in STEM. I feel it’s important for all children, not just girls, to realize the many extraordinary contributions of women in STEM. Ada was the world’s first computer programmer, yet few people have heard of her. And she did this in the 1800s!

In addition to showcasing a woman in STEM, I wanted to portray a person who had faced challenges in her life. Ada suffered from an assortment of health problems. As a child, a case of measles left her blind and paralyzed. Her sight soon returned, but Ada was bedridden for three years.

Laurie in third grade.
Many children have challenges of their own to overcome. Seeing how Ada succeeded in spite of her lifelong health problems might help them realize they can too.

When people hear I’ve written a picture book about Ada Byron Lovelace, often their first question is “Who’s that?” It makes me sad to realize most people have never heard of such an important person in STEM. Is this because she was a woman?

Because of Ada’s accomplishments and her overcoming of obstacles, I knew I had to write about her in my first picture book biography.

Additionally, in a previous career, I was a programmer, and I now teach computer science. How could I not write about Ada Byron Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer? Without a doubt, I had to share her story.

Wall of gear shapes from book launch!


Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of two signed copies of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark (Creston, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Trailer: Keepers of the Labyrinth by Erin E. Moulton

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Keepers of the Labyrinth by Erin E. Moulton (Philomel, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Courage is tested, myths come to life, and long-held secrets are revealed.

Lilith Bennette runs at midnight. She scales walls in the dark and climbs without a harness. She hopes that if she follows exactly in the steps of her strong air force pilot mother, she’ll somehow figure out the mystery of her mother’s death—and the reason why her necklace of Greek symbols has been missing ever since.

So when Lil is invited to Crete for a Future Leaders International conference, the same conference her mom attended years ago, she jumps at the chance to find some answers. But things in Melios Manor are not what they seem. Lil finds herself ensnared in an adventure of mythological proportions that leads her and her friends through the very labyrinth in which the real Minotaur was imprisoned. And they’re not in there alone. What secrets does the labyrinth hold, and will they help Lil find the truth about her mother?

This book is perfect for older fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus–and anyone who wants to find out the true story behind the magic of the Greek gods.



Photographs of Pefki, Crete, Gr. and Milia Mountain Retreat (the location that inspired the idea of Melios Manor) by Erin Robinson.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Voice & Giveaway: K.C. Maguire on Inside the Palisade

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

K.C. Maguire is the first-time author of Inside the Palisade (Lodestone, 2015). From the promotional copy:

Omega has grown up surrounded by women – literally.

Inside the palisade, women fall in love, marry and raise daughters, relying on an artificial insemination process known as the Procedure. But something goes horribly wrong.

One day, Omega comes face to face with a mythical monster – a man – within the society’s walls. Men had been eradicated long ago to protect women from the threat of violence. But this boy is not what Omega has been led to believe. And he needs her help.

She soon finds herself embroiled in a manhunt headed by a vigilante Protector, Commander Theta.

When she falls into Theta’s clutches, Omega realizes that there’s more to the banishment of men, and to her own past, than she’s ever known. Ultimately, she is forced to make a choice between betraying the lost boy and betraying her society, a decision complicated by the realization that she has more in common with him than she cares to admit, and the fact that she is developing feelings for him.

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

Because I’ve moved around a lot for my day job in recent years, it’s been a challenge to find a writing community that works for me. Lately, one of the most important sources of support and inspiration has been the amazing VCFA community. I’ve managed to find a network of friends, colleagues, and beta readers who are always there for questions, comments, reads, and general support.

I’m predominantly a YA writer, so I’ve also found writing groups through the regional branches of SCBWI in cities where I’ve lived. I have two amazing groups of writing friends in Houston, TX, one of which is an SCBWI critique group that meets weekly and provides as much friendship and support as thoughtful critiquing. It’s a wonderful mixture of picture book, middle grade, and young adult writers who experiment with different genres and are always willing to read something new. The other is a marketing support group where we experiment with different approaches to cross-promotions of our work whether traditionally, independently, or self-published.

HarperTeen, 2016
As I’m currently living in Ohio, I’ve also been lucky enough to find some wonderful writing friends in the Midwest. North East Ohio is a great place for YA writers many of whom are extremely generous with their time and thoughts. Particular shout-outs here to Cinda Williams Chima and Rebecca Barnhouse!

It’s always a blessing to find new people who “get” your work and your process, and it’s wonderful when you can develop a shorthand way of critiquing with people who are familiar enough with your writing tics to be able to go for the jugular (in a good way) and shake you out of bad habits without pulling their punches. Sometimes people who try to be too kind are not actually doing you a favor. A strong critique partner will be prepared to tell you honestly what you’re doing wrong.

Professional support, friendship, and critiquing are one of the best ways to “pay it forward” in a field like fiction-writing that can feel incredibly isolating and emotional from time to time. Everyone has their good days and their bad days, and it’s important to be available to others and share around the goodwill on your own good days, because someone else is always sure to need to feel the love!

As a science fiction writer, what first attracted you to that literary tradition? Have you been a long-time sci-fi reader?

Other than "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" (the original series as well as the reboot), I wasn’t a huge sci-fi fan growing up. I certainly didn’t read sci-fi books. That felt like the dominion of the “male” complement in my family.

It was when I started writing that I became attracted to the genre and began to read anything I could get my hands on both in the YA and adult sci-fi areas. I spent several years reading everything from the more “classic” canon (Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Heinlein, Bradbury, Willis, etc) to some of the more recent writers (Nalo Hopkinson, N.K. Jemison, Ann Aguirre, Karen Lord, John Scalzi).

Margaret Atwood has also written some amazing dystopias in recent years, not to mention her classic The Handmaid’s Tale (McClelland and Stewart, 1985). While many agents and editors talk about the death of the YA dystopian craze since the Hunger Games and Divergent frenzy seems to be playing out, I still feel that dystopian narratives have a lot to tell us.

Emily St. John Mandel’s recent take on a dystopic future after a plague has killed off most of the earth’s population (Station Eleven) is a powerful contemporary musing on the nature of humanity, using a dystopian society in new and unexpected ways to achieve that end.

One of the things I like best about sci-fi is that it’s one of the most effective ways to ask foundational “what if” questions about human nature. Sci-fi writers can pick an element of our world and change it to ask “what would happen if [fill in the blank].”

For example, what would happen if …

a) society was divided into factions based on personality types?

b) criminals were released into the public with their skin stained different colors to denote their crimes?

c) technology became so advanced that we could no longer tell humans apart from androids?

d) the earth become so polluted or over-populated that humans needed to find a new home?

* Bonus points for naming at least one book/story that matches each of these descriptions. Suggested answers below.

The sky is not even a limit with sci-fi. Not only are these kinds of stories fun and engaging (if written well), but they also raise issues about who we are at the most fundamental level.

Taking as an example the popular conceit of humans colonizing another planet, not only can this narrative device play a “what if” role about the future, but it also may give us insights about the past.

What have humans actually done in the past when expanding their territories on earth and encroaching on lands inhabited by others, human and/or non-human?

Ray Bradbury plays this idea out on many levels in The Martian Chronicles, where the colonization of Mars and the Martian-human relationships can stand in for a variety of events that have already taken place within the confines of our own planet.

In my debut sci-fi novel for YA readers, Inside the Palisade, I pose the question: What would happen if men had been banned from society and women reproduced through an artificial insemination procedure using stored genetic material?

K.C. named Omega/Meg after her daughter (shown at the writing desk).
In this all-female society men have been demonized (literally referred to as “demen”) as the cause of a great apocalypse that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Teen protagonist (Omega/Meg) comes across a young man who has been hidden within the walls of the city, and he isn’t what she expected. She is forced to question everything she’s been told about the differences between men and women and ultimately learns the truth about why the men were blamed for everything that went wrong.

The men here stand in for the “other.” Because Caucasian men are typically not thought of as an oppressed group in a western society, the set-up is a non-threatening lens through which to confront issues of “difference.” The device can invite readers to think about oppression or victimization of others hopefully without the narrative seeming overly preachy or judgmental. It takes a weird situation that would likely never happen in real life (my “what if”), and use it to encourage readers to think about why we dislike or fear people who are different, why we sometimes think of others as “less than” ourselves.

Good sci-fi gives us the opportunity to turn a real world problem on its head, or at least look at it through a new prism, so we can encourage readers to think about it from a new perspective while telling an engaging and unusual tale in the process. I love all genres and am a very eclectic reader, but I have a special place in my heart for sci-fi because of the amazing perspectives it can bring to us all.

* (a) Divergent by Veronica Roth; (b) When She Woke by Hillary Jordan; (c) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick; (d) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

Writer cats on the job, so to speak.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of three signed copies of Inside the Palisade by K.C. Maguire (Lodestone, 2015). Author sponsored. Eligibility: international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 12, 2015

Guest Post: Jesse Gainer on Submissions for Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award

By Jesse Gainer, Director
Tomás Rivera Children's Book Award
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

The Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award, established in 1995, recognizes and honors authors and illustrators who create quality children's literature that authentically depicts the Mexican American experience in the United States.

We recently celebrated our 20th anniversary and were written up in an article published by NBC Latino.

We are currently seeking submissions to be considered for the 2016 award in two categories:

2015 Winner
Works for Younger Children

These are books appropriate for children from birth to 12 years old [or Infant to 5th grade]

Works for Older Children

These are books appropriate for children ranging from 13 years old to 18 years old [or 6th grade to 12th grade]

All submissions for 2016 must have a publication date of 2015 to be considered. Our submission deadline is December 1st.

To submit a book for considerations please send four copies of the book to:

2015 Winner
Jesse Gainer, Director
Tomás Rivera Children's Book Award
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, TX 78666

If you have a suggestion for a book that you believe would be a good submission, but you can't send four copies, please email Jesse Gainer (jg51@txstate.edu) with the title, publisher, and ISBN of the book (and/or contact him with any questions). See more information about the award.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...