Saturday, March 05, 2016

In Memory: Louise Rennison

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Louise Rennison (1951-2016), author - obituary: 'Queen of Teen’ whose comic novels captured the horrors and occasional triumphs of adolescence from The Telegraph. Peek: "Louise Rennison, the author, who has died aged 64, was the creator of Georgia Nicolson, the 14-year-old protagonist of such young adult novels as Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and Startled by his Furry Shorts; the series achieved sales of 2.6 million in Britain alone."

Goodbye, Louise Rennison – you captured the hilarious horror of girlhood by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett from The Telegraph. Peek: "Rennison understood the unique, farcical horror of being a teenage girl."

Five Things All Louise Rennison Fans Know to Be True by Jillian Capewell from The Huffington Post. Peek: "Thanks to Rennison, I added snogging (kissing), nunga-nungas (breasts), lurrrrrve (self-explanatory) and away laughing on a fast camel (still working that one out) to my repertoire."

"My Hero: Louise Rennison" by Philip Ardagh from The Guardian. Peek: "...there is comfort in the fact that her laughter lives on through the pages of her books. She was a class act and one funny lady." See also Literary Agents Pay Tribute to Rennison from The Bookseller.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Cynsations News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

David Bowles on His Garza Twins Series & Pura Belpre Award from Latin@s in Kidlit. Peek: "...Anglo young people facing off against European or Western legendary beings, gods, or dilemmas. 'Wouldn’t it be nice,' we often mused, 'to open one of these books and find a Chicana facing off against Aztec deities or Mexican monsters?'"

Multiple Point of Views, Alternating Between First and Third Person by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor.com. Peek: "Maybe the first person point of view would establish your protagonist as the most trusted narrator, when in fact readers should be trusting someone else entirely."

WNDB Internship Grants from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: "This year nine $2500 grants are available to diverse publishing interns, and the program has expanded to include interns at literary agencies as well as partner publishing houses." See also Scholastic Collaborates with WNDB on Reading Club Flyers from Publishers Weekly.

Russia Purge: Publishing Children's Books in Russia by Masha Gessen from The Intercept. Peek: "You would think that publishing a book for six-year-olds wouldn’t entail political risks, even in a country where political risks abound. You would be wrong."

Writing Horror While Female from Courtney Alameda. Peek: "Women are no strangers to deep-seated, primal fear, which makes us candidates to exorcise those fears and frustrations on the page."

South Asian Voices: A Roundtable Discussion from We Need Diverse Books. Peek from Uma Krishnaswami: "I define it geographically. For me, Asia begins in Afghanistan and ends at the Pacific Ocean. And within that there are words of cultures, languages, religions, belief systems, art forms, stories, ways of thinking and being. I see South Asia as very much a part of Asia. You didn’t ask that, but I’m saying it anyway. What would Asia be without Buddhism, or India without tea?"

Old-time Gals with Gumption: The Picture Books of Shana Corey by Barbara Auerbach from School Library Journal. Peek: "As Women’s History Month approaches, teachers and librarians rush to titles that will engage and inspire students, and offer discussion opportunities."

Short Lists for the Canadian Library Association Children's and Young Adult Book Awards.

C.M. Surrisi and The Maypop Kidnapping from the VCFA Launchpad. Peek: "I strive for adult characters who are respected as role models, even if they are sometimes difficult and test a kid’s patience."

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry National Writing Contest from Penguin Books for Young Readers and We Need Diverse Books. Peek: "...launching a debut children's fiction contest to find talented, ethnically diverse authors writing for readers ages 8-14. Submission period begins in April 2016."

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Christy Hale by Jules from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Peek: "I look for color inspiration in art books. I research picture references for gestures, expressions, setting, clothing, and other aspects of daily living."

Death to the Q&A by Kenny Brechner from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "The customers’ energy and goodwill evaporates during the Q&A so that at its end, instead of staying to wait in line, chat, and buy a book, they run for it." Note: Not all attendees may be able to afford a book (or they may already own a copy but want to connect in person with the author). However, they might purchase a lower-priced item at the event (or at the store in the near future). In fact, they may be introduced to the store by the event. That said, it's agreed that Q&As (like readings) can become tedious.

Cynsational Giveaway


The winners of The Lost Track of Time by Paige Britt (Scholastic) were Barbara in North Carolina and Aaron in Michigan.

This Week at Cynsations


More Personally

Newest additions to my fairy door collection!
I'm thrilled to be attending the launch of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies by debut author Carmen Oliver (Capstone, 2015) at 2 p.m. Sunday at BookPeople in Austin. Look for more about Carmen and this terrific pro-literacy picture book at Cynsations soon!

Are you writing across identity elements? Join me for Diversity Done Right from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 in conjunction with North Texas SCBWI.

Or would you like to pursue one of manuscript critiques and/or career consultations (not to mention the chance to learn from an outstanding creative and publishing faculty)? If so, now is the time to register for the Austin SCBWI Writers & Illustrators Working Conference May 14 and May 15.

You can also find me teaching and speaking at the upcoming Asian Festival of Children's Media from May 25 to May 29 at the National Library in Singapore. Peek: "The Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) is an annual festival in Singapore that celebrates and promotes the creation and appreciation of children’s books and content, with a focus on Asian themes."

Personal Links


Click to see new members!
 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Guest Post & Giveaway: Hannah Barnaby on Writing for My Life: How I Dug into My Past for Fiction

By Hannah Barnaby
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

In early 1999, I was a graduate student in the children’s literature program at Simmons College in Boston.

I had a work study job at the Simmons social work school, mailing out applications and entering information into a computer, and that’s where I was on the morning of February 16th—sitting at someone else’s desk, collating papers—when the phone rang.

I ignored it. It wasn’t my phone.

It stopped, and rang again, and stopped, and finally the receptionist came in and said, “You need to answer that. It’s for you.”

It was my father, and he was crying, and he told me that my brother Jesse was dead.

I was twenty-four years old. My brother was not even twenty-one.

There is no good reason for why it has taken me seventeen years to write Some of the Parts (Knopf, 2016), the story of Tallie McGovern, who is sixteen and has lost her big brother and feels that she has no right to still be alive. There is no good reason, except that I was afraid to write Tallie’s story because I knew that it would bring that day in 1999 rushing back like an unstoppable river.

And it did. I remembered things that I was sure I’d forgotten, like the single red mitten on top of a fence that I saw as I walked to the T station after that phone call.

Like the first thing I ate after I found out: a tuna sandwich.

Like the ride home to Albany from Boston that night, like what my mother looked like when I saw her at the door, like the guilt and the aching sadness of an empty chair in our kitchen.

I am often asked about the process of writing for teen readers, about accessing my “inner teen,” about telling stories that they can relate to. But the truth is that the experiences which truly shape us—loss and gain, trauma and victory, love and devastation—refuse to be forgotten.

We have only to glance back at them and they reanimate, like a movie unpaused, and they start to talk and move and sing.

Tallie’s story unfolded that way. I expected that writing Some of the Parts would be difficult, and it was. Nate is not my brother, and Tallie is not me, but much of their story is taken from my own and that is how I wrote this book—not just for teens, but for everyone who has lost somebody important.

I didn’t expect that it would heal me all over again. But it did.

I spoke to my brother’s friends from high school and college. I listened to his favorite music (Charlie Parker). I read his favorite writers (James Michener and William Faulkner). I ate his favorite ice cream (vanilla). I spent time with him, the way that Tallie spends time with Nate. I walked through every part of her story right along with her and when she was finally safe again, I knew that I was, too.

I don’t know if Jesse was an organ donor. He died in a fire and most of his personal belongings were damaged or lost, including his driver’s license. But he cared deeply about his family and his friends and the world we lived in with him, and in that way, he lives on.

As for me: I have a little heart on the bottom of my driver’s license. I am very careful crossing the street, and I always wear my helmet.

I have a little boy now. When Some of the Parts is published—on the seventeenth anniversary of my brother Jesse’s death—my son will be nearly six. He loves vanilla ice cream, and music, and reading. He has brown hair and dark eyes, like the uncle he will never meet.

Before I wrote this book, I didn’t talk about my brother with my children very often, because I thought it would be too sad, and because I didn’t know what tell them. Writing Some of the Parts gave me the words to say, and I hope those words are taken by readers and used in conversations about loss of all kinds.

Sometimes bad things happen, and we are not the same when they are over.

This is the line from Some of the Parts that sums it all up for me. When we lose someone, their empty space doesn’t get filled up. It isn’t like digging a hole in the sand and watching the hole disappear when the tide comes in. It’s more like this:



We grow around the memory of the people we’ve lost, and we carry them with us. And if we’re feeling very brave one day, we write about them.

Cynsational Notes

Hannah Barnaby is the author of Wonder Show (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), a Morris Award finalist; Some of the Parts; and the upcoming picture books Bad Guy and Garcia & Colette. She is a proud graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts and a former children’s book editor and bookseller.

Hannah lives in Charlottesville, VA with her family and teaches creative writing to anyone who will listen. Find her on Twitter @hannahrbarnaby.

Learn more about Hannah’s upcoming Write for Your Life workshop at The Writing Barn in Austin.

Cynsational Giveaway


Enter to win a signed copy of Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby (Knopf, 2016) and a sterling silver heart necklace. Author sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. only.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Author Interview: Deborah Hopkinson on Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

What was your initial inspiration for writing Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (Schwartz & Wade, 2016)?

Actually, several years ago my agent, Steven Malk, mentioned that it might be fun to do a book about Beatrix Potter. After reading about her life (and enjoying the film "Miss Potter"), I became fascinated by her story, accomplishments, and legacy.

My first attempts at writing a nonfiction book about her failed, however. But when I went back to try again, I hit upon focusing on one incident from her journal that illustrates her love of animals and of art.

The promotional copy describes the story as "mostly true." So this is historical fiction, yes? Where did you honor the Potter's actual life and where did you creatively extrapolate?

It’s absolutely historical fiction! I do author visits at schools all over the country, and one of the first things students and I discuss is the distinction between nonfiction and historical fiction. I’ve been previewing the cover of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, and have found that even young children recognize that it’s a made up story (and slightly silly to boot).

In fact, some details in the story are based on fact, including the part where Beatrix borrowed from her neighbor a guinea pig named "Queen Elizabeth," which expired in the night from consuming a feast of paper, paste, and other scrumptious tidbits.

As I mention in the note, Beatrix was actually in her twenties when this occurred, but we have set the story when she was younger. The dialogue is invented also, although we do include several excerpts from her journal in the book.

I’ve included an author’s note of her life that also explains that the story is fictionalized.

What were other the challenges--research, craft, logistical and/or emotional--in bringing the story to life?

One of the aspects of Beatrix’s own creative process I wanted to emulate was the “picture letter.” She originally got the idea for The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) when writing a get well note to a young boy in the format of a letter that included spot art illustrations. I wanted to make this book a sort of picture letter itself.

Working with Charlotte Voake’s delightful illustrations, the amazing team editorial team of Anne Schwartz and Lee Wade (Schwartz & Wade) were able to capture that feeling for the book. For instance, even before you get to the title page, there is a spread that begins, “My Dear Reader…” which shows a hand penning the words. At the end, the story is signed by me and the author’s note is in the form of a postscript.

I’m always looking for ways that teachers and librarians can use books with students, and I think that, in addition to being an author and illustrator children enjoy, Beatrix Potter is a model for someone who began working on her craft as a child.

How did Charlotte Voake's illustrations enhance your text?

Charlotte’s work is absolutely perfect for this story! I love her illustrations of Beatrix’s pets, which are filled with wry humor.

Charlotte is British, and we’re excited that her British publisher, Walker, will be publishing the book in Great Britain in July to coincide with the 150th anniversary celebration of Beatrix Potter’s birth.

(This anniversary is, as you can imagine, rather a big deal in England, and the Royal Mint is even issuing special commemorative coins.)

What other new releases should your readers be sure to check out in 2016?

As it happens, 2016 is also the 150th anniversary of the founding of the ASPCA in April 1866. And this April I’m excited that my new historical fiction middle grade novel, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket, will be out from Knopf.

It’s set in New York City, and is narrated by a young Italian immigrant brought over to be a street musician. It also features appearances by actual historical figures involved with improving the rights of children and animals, including Jacob Riis and ASPCA founder Henry Bergh.

What advice do you have for fellow writers about historical research and blending facts with fiction?

In October 2016, I’ll be teaching a Highlights Foundation workshop (with Pamela Turner) on writing nonfiction for middle grade students. I taught this class last year, and one of our main discussion points was how to know when a project can -- or should be -- fiction or nonfiction.

I’ve always been a huge fan of both genres, and enjoy writing about the same historical periods in different ways. My first long work of nonfiction, Shutting out the Sky, Life in the Tenements of New York (Scholastic, 2003), came about because I had written a Dear America historical fiction book (Hear My Sorrow (Scholastic, 2004)) about the Triangle Waist Company fire. In A Bandit’s Tale, I am returning to the same setting but telling the story in a picaresque style.

I think the main point whether one is writing historical fiction or nonfiction is that the piece must work as a dramatic, compelling story. This sometimes means including less research than one might like – but, then, you never know when you might use it again.

Cynsational Notes

Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @deborahopkinson.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

2016 SCBWI Bologna Author-Illustrator Interview: Naomi Kojima

By Elisabeth Norton
for SCBWI Bologna 2016
and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Naomi Kojima is an author and illustrator of children’s books. Born in Japan, Naomi has divided her life between Japan and the United States. Her first two picture books, Mr. and Mrs. Thief and The Flying Grandmother were published in New York. 

Since then, her books have been published in Japan, France, Sweden and Indonesia. 

Living and working in Tokyo, she is that author and illustrator of picture books The Alphabet Picture Book and The Singing Clams. She has been a keynote and presenter at major Asian conferences including the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore and has given illustration and picture book workshops in India and Indonesia.

Naomi serves as the illustrator coordinator of SCBWI Japan.

Welcome Naomi! Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your career as an illustrator, and about serving as a judge for the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery (BIG).

Can you tell us about how you entered the field of illustrating children's books?

illustration from The Alphabet Picture Book
When I was a child, I wanted to become a writer of children’s books and illustrate my stories. I went to the school library almost every day, and read and talked to the kind librarian until it was time to go home. I would look at the bookshelves and dream that someday, my books would be on these shelves, and a child like me would take them off the shelf, read it and enjoy it.

I made my first picture book for a class assignment during my senior year at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. The story was based on my friend’s next door neighbor. We were sure they were thieves!

I wrote the story, drew illustrations, stapled the pages, and called the picture book Mr. and Mrs. Thief. Making the picture book brought back my childhood dream.

I knew in my heart that I wanted to keep on writing and illustrating picture books. But I had no idea how to start on the path as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. I went back to Japan after graduation, and worked as an art teacher.

Some years later, my husband and I moved to the U.S., to a college town in Massachusetts, and I met Jane Yolen. It was Jane who helped me start my career in children’s books. I went to the monthly meetings Jane organized in a small library in Hatfield. The group was called the Society of Children’s Book Writers, now the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.


By attending the meetings, I learned how to make picture books. I worked on Mr. and Mrs. Thief, and received critique at the monthly meetings. After several revisions, Jane told me that Mr. and Mrs. Thief was ready. I made five appointments with publishers in New York City, and the editor at the second publisher showed strong interest in Mr. and Mrs. Thief and another picture book dummy The Flying Grandmother. Three weeks later, she called and gave me a contract for both books.

It was Jane and SCBWI that helped me make my childhood dream come true. And do you know what? The library at my elementary school in Tokyo has a special shelf for my books!

How did you discover your illustration style?

My illustration style is influenced by the illustrations from the books I used to enjoy as a child. One book I liked was a collection of New Yorker cartoons. It was my parent’s book, and I couldn’t understand the captions and I didn’t get the jokes, but I thought the black and white illustrations were so clever. I was amazed how much could be expressed in just black and white.

illustration from The Sparrow's Gift
Another book I loved to look through, turning from page to page, was the Fireside Book of Folk Songs, which is a 300-page songbook. I didn’t know the songs, but I would look at the illustrations and try to imagine what the ballads were about.

Many years later, I realized the illustrations were by Alice and Martin Provensen. That was a wonderful surprise!

During my school years in Japan, I was fascinated with the illustrations by E. H. Shepard in Winnie-the-Pooh; with Walter Trier, who illustrated many of Erich Kaster’s books; with Edward Ardizzone in The Little Bookroom; and Pauline Baynes, who illustrated the Narnia books.

Naturally, I chose pen and ink and water colors for my illustrations.

Do you have a favorite artistic medium for your illustrations?

I like to work in pen and ink and water colors. I like the clear and black lines of pen and ink, and a light layer of water colors over the lines. I also use colored pencils. I like to combine soft and hard colored pencils.

I like to work in pencil too. The illustrations for Singing Shijimi Clams are done in pencil. I used a mechanical pencil to get a very fine and sharp line.

Has that changed over the course of your career?

No, it hasn’t changed much. I experiment with markers and crayon, but I go back to pen and ink, pencil, water colors and colored pencils.

Do you illustrate your own stories, the stories of other writers, or both?

I illustrate my own picture book stories. I don’t think I would illustrate someone else’s picture book, but from time to time, I like illustrating long stories by other writers. As a child, I always looked forward to finding the illustrations in long stories. I think the combination of illustrations and words are beautiful, in picture books and in longer stories.

I have illustrated four stories by Japanese fantasy writer Sachiko Kashiwaba. The most recent book we worked on together is Princess Tapir’s Classmate. Her stories usually have mythical beasts and animals, which is a challenge, but also fun to illustrate.

What are the differences and/or similarities in the creative process when illustrating your own or other people's stories?

The biggest difference is, if you are writing and illustrating your own story, you are responsible for everything: the content, the plot, the structure, the quality of writing and art.

When you illustrate other people’s stories, your mission is to interpret the story, and make illustrations that represent and enhance the story.

The similarity is that you give your best to make a beautiful book.

As a judge for the SCBWI Bologna Illustration Gallery, what makes an illustration stand out to you?

Good illustrations have the power to draw you in instantly, and make you want to keep looking. The more you look, the more you see. It seems there are layers of things to look at.

It could be the movement of fine lines, the confident brush strokes, the subtle and rich colors, the careful details, the striking composition, the humor, the playfulness, the expression of the face or body that evokes a feeling, and reminds you of a place or time.

There are illustrations that are successful in catching your eye by using strong colors and composition, but when you look closely, you notice it is a dead end, that you cannot see or feel the artist, and you cannot go any deeper than the surface. Depth is an important quality in good illustrations.

The successful illustrator seems to know when to stop and when to add. This sense of balance, I believe, comes from training and experience, from many hours of drawing.

What are the benefits for illustrators from submitting their work to showcases such as BIG?

The biggest benefit for submitting to BIG is the opportunity of having your work displayed at the SCBWI Showcase at the 2016 Bologna Book Fair, where people in the children’s book business from around the world will come to browse.

Another benefit is the digital version of the shortlist portfolio, where thumbnails of artwork and contact information will be on display on the SCBWI website. SCBWI continues to display portfolios from 2010. This is wonderful, as it gives illustrators from around the world an opportunity to show their work on a long-term basis. Many editors come to the SCBWI website to find illustrators.

As you can see from this shortlist, the quality of the illustrations were very high. The judging process required a lot of concentration and energy, but I enjoyed every moment of looking at the submissions.

I know it takes a bit of courage to submit work to illustration contests, but when you submit, you are taking a step forward and making a commitment to your career as an illustrator.

What qualities do you think are important for an artist to have in order to be successful in the field of illustration for children's books?

Good drawing skills, a love for children’s books, determination, perseverance, patience, objectivity and believing in yourself. And if you want to be a picture book illustrator, read many, many picture books.

What is the one thing you wish someone had told you at the beginning of your career as an illustrator?

That life is much too short to make all the story ideas I have into picture books!

illustration from Singing Shijimi Clams

Thank you Naomi for your time! It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Cynsational Notes

Elisabeth Norton grew up in Alaska, lived for many years and Texas, and after a brief sojourn in England, now lives with her family between the Alps and the Jura in Switzerland.

She writes for middle grade readers and serves as the regional advisor for the Swiss chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

When not writing, she can be found walking the dogs, playing board games, and spending time with family and friends. Find her on Twitter @fictionforge.

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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Guest Post: Parker Peevyhouse on Where Futures End

Excerpt
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Parker Peevyhouse is the first-time author of Where Futures End (Penguin/Kathy Dawson Books, 2016). From the promotional copy:

Five teens.

Five futures.

Two worlds.

One ending.

One year from now, Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world.

Ten years from now, Brixney must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtors' colony.

Thirty years from now, Epony scrubs her entire online profile from the web and goes “High Concept.”

Sixty years from now, Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard.

And more than a hundred years from now, Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all.

Five people, divided by time, will determine the fate of us all. These are stories of a world bent on destroying itself, and of the alternate world that might be its savior--unless it's too late.

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?

Parker Peevyhouse
I set myself up for a tricky revision process when I wrote Where Futures End as a series of interconnected stories. I had to make sure that the stories connected well to each other, even though each is mostly self-contained.

My agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, also pointed out that the first story in the book had to be really gripping. Of course, every novel has to have an opening that grabs the reader, but that had to be especially true of Where Futures End, since the reader would only continue to the second story if s/he loved the first.

I worked really hard to revise the opening story before we sent out the manuscript on submission. But the feedback we got was that the first story still wasn’t working. The tone was too sad and dark, since the story dealt with a boy (Dylan) wrestling with the death of his brother; and Dylan was confusing, since he kept going back and forth on whether he had the ability to visit another world. I was pretty bummed about this feedback because I loved Dylan and his story, but I could see that the manuscript wouldn’t sell as-is.

I scrapped that first story and started over. I brought the dead brother back to life and made the plot focus on sibling rivalry. I created a more linear progression for Dylan’s investigation into whether he had the ability to visit another world, and I had the brother play a larger part in this mystery. To my surprise, this new version of the story felt even closer to what I had originally want to achieve. And it got a lot more interest from editors.

The editor who bought the novel, Kathy Dawson (who has her own imprint at Penguin), wanted me to make even deeper cuts. In the original version of the manuscript, Dylan is obsessed with a series of fantasy novels about the Lookingland, a magical realm Dylan thinks he can visit. Throughout the novel, other characters also try to access the Lookingland, so it became an element that tied together the separate stories that make up Where Futures End. Kathy suggested I cut out the Lookingland entirely; she thought it was too confusing, one more thing for the reader to keep track of in an already intricate novel. But how in the world would I then tie all of Where Futures End together?

Parker's assistant, Arya
We figured out that Dylan, instead of reading novels about the magical land he longed to escape to, should write stories about that land himself. This set up a new way to connect the stories that comprise Where Futures End.

In the second part of Where Futures End, Dylan’s stories come to the public’s attention. In the third part, we see that books and movies have been made from Dylan’s stories. In the fourth part, a main character makes his living playing a video game based on Dylan’s stories. And in the fifth part, the stories take on a life of their own…

It was painful to make all of those deep cuts. I wasn’t always sure I should make such huge changes to my original vision! But I took the advice of my agent and did my revisions in a separate document so that I always had the option of reverting to the original manuscript.

That helped me make bold changes, and in the end, I felt the new versions of the manuscript were better than the old versions.

It helps to have an agent and an editor who are so insightful with their revision suggestions, but I also recommend taking chances with revisions, knowing you can always go back to what you originally wrote if those revisions don’t work for you.

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

Does anyone else remember “poot” from My Teacher Fried My Brains by Bruce Coville (Aladdin, 1991)? I loved that crazy-weird stretchable pet when I was in grade school. And I was fascinated by the tesseracts in A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1963).

When I was a kid, if there was a book in my library about something strange, I took it home.

Those books inspired me to write my own weird stories about kids visiting alternate realities and wielding supernatural powers.

Reading and writing science fiction was the only thing that could feed my ever-hungry imagination.

What drew me to science fiction as a kid were the strange ideas, the mind-benders, like Meg Murray talking about how time is the fourth dimension.

Where Futures End makes use of the tropes I’ve loved reading about from a young age: alternate universes, time distortion, psychic abilities. But I’ve also grown to love how science fiction explores personal interactions and cultural changes. I wanted Where Futures End to explore culture in the same way Feed by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2002) does, and to explore relationships in the same way that How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Penguin, 2004) does.

Science fiction, more than any other genre, lends enough distance to gain new perspectives, and that’s the main reason I still love the genre.

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