Friday, February 26, 2016

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Writing While Black/Writing While Indigenous: Two Voices Speak on Literature, Representation & Justice from Zetta Elliott. Peek: "I am an Aboriginal woman who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. I write YA novels and picture books, and I teach law at a university. I’m often told that being a writer and a law academic is a strange combination, but there is a powerful connection between law and storytelling."

#OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children's Literature by Kayla Whaley from Brightly. Peek: "I have a lifetime of experiences — positive, negative, neutral, and complicated mixtures of all of the above — to draw from when I write a fuller, more authentic wheelchair-using character." See also CBC Multicultural Statistics for 2015 from the Cooperative Center of Children's Books AKA CCBlogC.

Plotting 101: How Decoding Rejection Letters Can Help You Identify Problems with Your Writing Method by Martina Boone from Adventures in YA Publishing. Peek: "...find a character you know and love, a story that inspires you deeply, and a problem that is universal enough to interest a lot of different people..." See also Getting the Pacing Right by Becca Puglisi from Writers Helping Writers.

Writing India/India Ex-Pat Community: Did I Get It Right? from Uma Krishnaswami. Peek: "...here are some questions I’ve found helpful when reading what I will call an outsider manuscript...."

Simon & Schuster Creates Imprint for Muslim-Themed Children's Books by Alexandra Alter from The New York Times. Peek: "The books won’t emphasize theology or Islamic doctrine, Mr. Chanda said, but will highlight the experience of being Muslim through their characters and plots."

Common Writerly Beginner Tics by Kimberley Griffiths Little from Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles. Peek: "It’s very easy to write one or more chapters about what happened to your character before diving into the actual story that the novel is about. Readers want to see your MC in an immediate scene or problem, even if it’s a small problem."

Put Interested Editors on Hold While Seeking An Agent? by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor.com. Peek: "Should one of the editors offer a contract before you sign with an agent, update the agents. They’ll likely review your submission quickly."

Cynsational Awards

This Week at Cynsations

Cynsational Giveaways


More Personally

Grab the Feb. issue of O!
See Jackie Woodson's quote!
I've spent the past work joyously reading and offering feedback to my Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA advisees for  winter 2016.

It's not until just now, once that first round is finished, that I feel like I can settle into the semester.

Today, I'll be busy catching up on daily correspondence and responsibilities that were set aside during grading (in potential news, this includes finishing up submissions for a couple of anthologies). I'll keep you updated.

Link of the Week: 28 Days Later: A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature from The Brown Bookshelf.

Personal Links

Peek at the Poster for Children's Book Week (May 2 to May 8)
Butterbeer and More: What to Eat at New Harry Potter Theme Park
Seven Fascinating Films About Writers
#StepUpScholastic
What It's Really Like to Work in Hollywood (If You're Not a Straight, White Male)

http://www.21cnfc.com/conference-program.html

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Guest Post: Tamara Ellis Smith on Another Kind of Hurricane

By Tamara Ellis Smith
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Space. Not up, as in the final frontier, but between, as in the distance between you and me.

I've been thinking a lot about that kind of space lately, and I've been especially curious about what can happen inside of it. What I've come to believe is that anything can happen—and everything.

I learned this through the process of writing my debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane (Schwartz & Wade.) And I am hoping to nurture this through the Another Kind of Hurricane Project, a community service/creative connection project I am offering schools, classrooms, teachers and students.

Space in Another Kind of Hurricane

"Who will get my pair of pants?" my four-year-old son, Luc, asked me.

It was late August 2005, in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, and we were dropping off food and clothing at our local police barracks.

Luc's question was a good one. A great one, actually.

It is just under one thousand six hundred miles from where we live in Vermont to New Orleans. That's a lot of space. But at the other side there was a four-year-old kid who would soon be wearing Luc's green pants with the moose on them.

Lucaiah's question connected the two boys. His question—his curiosity about this other kid—made that space become vibrant and alive; filled it with potential…for interaction, for transformation, for growth.

Who will get my pair of pants?

With Isaiah and the marbles he made at a workshop in New Orleans
I couldn't get the question out of my head. So I stumbled my way through the process of learning how to write a novel, this novel – a story that became about a ten-year-old boy named Henry, who lives in Vermont and whose friend dies in a mountain accident, and another ten-year-old boy named Zavion, who lives in New Orleans, and whose house is destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, and the strange, almost magical, way their lives become entwined.

I kind of frantically wrote the novel. Hurricane-style. Fast and furious – ideas whipping around me like wind; words pouring down onto the page in buckets.

I finally finished what I thought was the final draft of Another Kind of Hurricane in 2007. I found my agent in 2008. We sent the novel out that fall, and by the end of 2009…

I had a lot of rejections. I was, I'm going to say it, flooded with them. Something was missing from the story.

In August 2011, almost exactly six years after Hurricane Katrina, Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont.

Hard.

It literally hit the block I live on. The river we live right by flooded its banks and water poured onto our street from two sides. Water reached the stop sign at the entrance to the block. Sheep and pigs from the farm at the other end of the block had to be rescued in kayaks. Our houses flooded. The basement of my house flooded, destroying our water heater and a pellet stove. We lost our kids' artwork, bins of clothing, and some of my manuscript among other things.

We were extremely lucky—no one was hurt. And I know that what we experienced was only the smallest fraction of what folks went through in New Orleans. But still, living through Irene touched me deeply. But not only in the ways you might expect.

At one point during the process of hauling stuff from our basement, someone gave me a box. I was standing by the dumpster deciding what could be salvaged and what had to be thrown away. (Most everything had to be thrown away.)

I opened the box. It was filled with photographs. For those of you who aren't familiar with these, I'm talking about 35mm, developed film, no saving them on your phone, no posting them on Facebook! A picture of my siblings and me at my wedding, a picture of my sister the first time she made Luc laugh, a picture of a camping trip with friends. The photos were soaking wet and covered in mud. I knew there were dozens of similar boxes, still in the basement. I knew I had to throw them all away. But I couldn't do it. Not yet. So I went back to filling the dumpster. Hours later, as the sun was setting, I took a break and walked to the lawn at the side of my house.

What I saw took my breath away.



People I didn’t know—were saving all of my photos. Someone meticulously peeled them apart, someone rinsed them in a shallow bin of water, and someone hung them on a clothesline to dry.

It was one of those moments that shines a light. Instead of quickly chucking that box of photos, I had accidentally left a space for these people. They became like Lucaiah, my son, asking a question:

What should we do with these photographs? And I became the kid who got the moose pants. Without realizing it, I had allowed there to be that vibrant, full-of-potential space. A space, it turns out, spanning those amazing people and me.

And inside of that space, those people and I—we were forever changed; we became friends.

And all of a sudden I knew. This was the something missing from my novel. Space.

One thousand six hundred miles between Vermont and New Orleans. A space just as far and, it turns out, just as close as between those people and me.

Irene had soaked me with a giant reminder about the power of that kind of space. It's a little like the eye of a hurricane, perhaps. That lull in the middle of the storm. But not really. It's less like an eye and more like a heart. A place that quietly beats with life. Or two hearts, really. The magic of space, for me, is the landscape—or maybe people-scape—where the alchemy of one person connecting with another unfolds.

And now I had to create that – and trust that – as I headed into yet another draft of Another Kind of Hurricane.

Jeanette Winterson said in her book of short stories: In the space between chaos and shape, there was another chance.

After my experience with Irene, I revised my novel more slowly. I took that one thousand six hundred mile journey step by step. Page by page. Person by person.

What did that look like in my life? I spent less time furiously writing and more time watching, walking, talking with people. I was more curious and vulnerable, braver about hanging out with not knowing, braver about letting whatever knowing might come, come organically. It looked like sitting at my friend's kitchen table drinking coffee and telling Henry and Zavion's story. It looked like running on the river trail with my dog before the sun came up not thinking about Henry and Zavion at all. It looked like honoring that vibrant and alive space.

Sometimes it wasn't easy – just ask my friends how fun I was to be with sometimes!—but it faithfully continued, like that photograph saving experience, to take my breath away. And to offer epiphanies and spark creativity and teach me what I believe in.

What did that look like in my novel? I cut a lot of words. I am what my editor would call an emotional maximalist! I know, this might be shocking to you. She's an emotional minimalist, by the way, so we're a good team! This left more room for my readers to bring their own experiences and ideas to the story.

It looked like rearranging the timeline of the story, allowing Henry and Zavion to make wrong choices and take missteps. It looked like Henry being an animal fact fanatic, allowing him to feel something other than guilt, and Zavion finally remembering breaking his mother's coffee cup because of a sensory trigger, the bell-sound of a bracelet. It looked like these two very different boys from two very different places almost meeting, and then meeting. And creating comfort and hope and even healing there.

It isn't always easy for them either, but in that space they are brave enough to be open to, they find reflections of themselves. They find connection. They find friendship.

They find another chance in Another Kind of Hurricane.

Space in Another Kind of Hurricane Project

It is my deep desire to create this kind of space for kids across the country to nurture their own connections, friendships and chances.

Tamara's sons: Jafeth (age 4) and Lucaiah (age 14)
The Another Kind of Hurricane (AKOH) Project (created with Kirsten Cappy and Curious City) empowers classrooms to reach out to schools in need. In Another Kind of Hurricane (Random House), two boys from opposite ends of the country make a connection through a pair of donated blue jeans—a pair of jeans with a marble in the pocket.

The AKOH Project encourages classrooms and schools to identify a school in need, hold a blue jean drive and slip letters and items into the pockets of those jeans. We know that reading fiction builds empathy, and we know that children can feel powerless when disaster strikes in other parts of the world. The AKOH Project hopes to turn empathy into the power to build connections between communities.

Cynsational Notes

Tamara Ellis Smith writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She graduated in 2007 from Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Tam’s debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane was released by Schwartz & Wade/Random House in July 2015. She is represented by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Guest Post: Linda Joy Singleton on Reinventing & Rebuilding Your Writing Career

By Linda Joy Singleton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

A few years ago, I thought my career was over.

Due to slow sales and a changing market, I’d lost both my publisher and agent—and I was devastated. Also, a science fiction/mystery YA that I’d been positive would sell when it went to acquisition meetings at major publishers had ultimately been rejected.

After over 35 published YA and middle grade books, I was on my own.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

“I feel so sad when I think back on how high my hopes were but now everything has led to this point of failure. I am so sad...discouraged...mourning the loss of dreams.”

I moped around for a few days, doing things like eating chocolate, reading comfort books and hanging out with my family. But I couldn’t sit around—I had to write.

So instead of giving up—I got busy.


I researched publishers that accepted unagented manuscripts. I polished then submitted my manuscripts—including a few pictures books. This format was new to me since I’d mostly written novels, but I’d sold one picture book--Snow Dog, Sand Dog, illustrated by Jess Golden (Albert Whitman, 2014) and that gave me hope. So I wrote more picture books.


One of these, Cash Kat, seemed like a good fit for my friend Danna Smith’s publisher Arbordale, so I sent it to them. A year later they offered me a contract—and now Cash Kat (2016) is a beautiful hardback picture book, illustrated by Christina Wald! It teaches how to count money and celebrates the special bond kids have with their grandparents.

More books I submitted on my own sold: Never Been Texted (Leap Books, 2015) and Curious Cat Spy Club series to Albert Whitman (2015). The third book in this CCSC series, Kelsey The Spy, comes out April 1—and I can hardly wait.

Also, I got a new agent—Abi Samoun of Red Fox Literary, who recently sold two of my picture books to Little Bee for 2017 publication.

And remember that YA science fiction/mystery I’d tried so hard to sell? Well, it’s coming out in September 2016 from CBAY Publishing under the new title of Memory Girl.

Instead of my career being over, it’s taking a new shape.

Being discouraged is part of the writing game. Most writers deal with the lows of rejections, losing agents or editors, low sales numbers and having books go out of print. A writing career is like riding a roller coaster, going up and down then up again.

Here are some tips to help you ride the painful downs:
  • It’s healthy to grieve a disappointment or loss—but then get busy. 
  • Network! Writer friends give great advice and publishing tips. 
  • Small publishers can offer big opportunities. 
  • Keep busy writing: books, articles, reviews. Name recognition counts. 
  • Try new genres! You never know when magic will happen. 
  • If you aren’t in a critique group, join one—or start one. 
  • Don’t give up—as long as you’re writing you are a writer.


Cynsational Notes

See more on Linda Joy Singleton's books and writing tips.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Trailer & Giveaway: Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin

Discussion Guide (PDF)
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill, 2015, 2016)--now available in paperback. From the promotional copy:

Peter Stone is a quiet boy in a family full of extroverts, musicians, and yellers. The louder they are, the more silent Peter is . . . until he practically embodies his last name.

When his family moves to the Texas Hill Country, though, Peter finds a peaceful, mysterious valley where he can, at last, hear himself think. There, he meets a girl his age, Annie Blythe, a spirited artist who 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 has to undergo a dangerous treatment to try to stop her cancer from spreading. Left alone, the disease will kill her. But the treatment could cause serious brain damage and take away her ability to make art.

Together, Annie and Peter 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. Sometimes wishes come true in the most unexpected ways.


Trailer: "Wish Girl" by Nikki Loftin from Dave Wilson on Vimeo.

Cynsational Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2016 SCBWI Bologna Author Interview: Christopher Cheng

By Patti Buff
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Christopher Cheng is the award-winning author of more than 40 children’s books in print and digital formats. The picture book New Year Surprise! is his latest publication. 

His other titles include the picture books One Child, Sounds Spooky and Water, the historical fiction titles New Gold Mountain and the Melting Pot as well as the nonfiction titles 30 Amazing Australian Animals and Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations

His narrative nonfiction picture book Python, was shortlisted in the 2013 Children’s Book Council of the Year awards, and was listed as of “Outstanding Merit” in the 2014 edition of Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults, selected by the Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee. 

In addition to his books, Christopher writes articles for online ezines and blogs, and he wrote the libretto for a children’s musical.

He is co-chair of the International Advisory Board for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), an International Advisory Board Member for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) and a recipient of the Lady Cutler Award for Children’s Literature. 

He is also the director of the digital publishing company Sparklight. He presents in schools, conferences and festivals around the world and he established the international peer voted SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards. He dwells with his wife in an inner-city Sydney terrace and is often heard to say that he has the best job in the world!

Welcome to the blog, Chris! With much more focus on diversity in children's books than has been in the past, how important of a role do you think book fairs like Bologna play in introducing young readers to children from other countries and cultures?

They are critical - we move in a global sphere but we don’t all dress the same or say the same things or behave the same way thus it is important for today’s children, no matter where they are in the world, to be exposed to the authentic literature from other countries and cultures who tell ‘their’ stories with an authentic voice.

Any tips for new Bologna visitors?
 
• It’s big so enjoy the experience.
• Plan out what you want to see, make notes ahead of time and follow your nose.
• Make notes of what you see, how the books are displayed, how the different publishers publish their content, look at the types of books that the publishers and other organizations have on display - can you find a continual link between their titles?
Don't bug/hassle the publishers / agents / marketing folk etc. unless you have been invited.
Don't rush home (this is especially for those of the authorial persuasion) and write the book that you have decided is the ‘happening thing’ at Bologna. It will have already been done and dusted by the time you get down to it.
• There is a lot of ‘paper’ at Bologna - you can’t carry it all … but much of it will be digital!
Visit our SCBWI booth - we are your home away from home!
• And don’t forget to sample, no feast, on some of the amazing food that is available in Bologna.

Bellissimo!

You've had books published in markets all around the world. What do you think makes a book successful in all different types of markets?

Having a global theme, like peace/war/growing up, death, childhood, animals etc.

That said I know you can’t create a book that will fit all markets throughout the world. You have to create your own story!

I’ve read you do weeks and months of research for your historical fiction and that by the time you’re ready to write, the story has already been formulated in your head. Which I can imagine lends itself to easy drafting. 

But once the editing starts, have you had to ‘change facts’ for the story’s sake and if so, how hard has that been?

Easy drafting for sure … not so easy for editing though! There has always been too much in the story. I don’t think I have had to change the essential facts at all to ‘fit the story’ as my historical fiction has always been based on the facts themselves.

The facts themselves are often what make the riveting story!

You write for a wide range of ages and over a wide range of subjects and genres. What advice can you give authors who’d like to branch out and diversify their writing.

Know your audience. Know the genre. Know what you are writing. If it is factual - know the facts and that goes for authors and illustrators.

Write your story, and if it doesn’t work, then try it in a genre you are comfortable with.

And finally, what are you working on now? Any surprises you can share with us?

My newest title, birthed Feb. 5 is New Years Surprise! It was written to tie in with an exhibition of paper art and objects, that is being held at our National Library in Canberra (our national capital) on the Celestial Empire.

At this exhibition, visitors experience 300 years of Chinese culture and tradition from two of the world’s great libraries - the National Library in China and our National Library.

From life at court to life in the villages and fields, glimpse the world of China’s last imperial dynasty and its wealth of cultural tradition.

The exhibition (and thus, by association, my book) is being launched by the Prime Minister of Australia. Woo hoo--will have the glad rags on for that! There will be lots of twittering and facebooking going on!

That’s wonderful, congratulations! Not every author can say their book was launched into the public by the Prime Minister. 

Thank you so much for joining us, Chris. Have a great time in Bologna!
 
Cynsational Notes

Patti Buff
The tenth out of eleven children in a family that took in hundreds of foster kids, Patti Buff found solitude in reading at a young age and hasn’t stopped. She later turned to writing because none of her other siblings had and she needed to stand out in the crowd somehow.

Originally from Minnesota, Patti now lives in Germany with her husband and two teenagers where she’s also the regional advisor of SCBWI Germany & Austria.

She is currently putting the finishing touches on her YA novel, Requiem, featured in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2016 anthology.

The Bologna 2016 Interview series is coordinated by Angela Cerrito, SCBWI’s Assistant International Advisor and a Cynsational Reporter in Europe and beyond.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...