Saturday, March 26, 2005

Tell Tales For A Living

My latest published article is "Tell Tales For a Living: Children's Book Author" by Cynthia Leitich Smith from the April/May 2005 issue of Career World magazine 33:6. See pg. 26.

It's part of a series of articles called a "Career Map" that ask: "Where do I go with creative writing?" Interviews with a newspaper columnist and advertising copywriter also are featured.

I don't think teens should feel like they have to have everything figured out by the time they graduate high school, but it is important to have some kind of a plan. They can always change their minds, but having a goal offers focus and a reason to move forward. Once they're in motion, exploring their interests, the misty path should begin to clear.

"Children and Television" (nicknamed "KidTV") was my favorite class in college outside of the journalism school. It was fun, fascinating, encouraged critical thinking, and reminded me of the importance of youth as an audience. It was an early flag, pointing me in the direction of doing what I'd most love.

People always talk about life as a journey, and it is. We focus on its moments of hardship because they demand our attention. But it's also important to reflect on moments of illumination. That class illuminated me.

I hope my Career World article is illuminating for at least one future children's/YA writer.

Cynsational News and Links

Battling Rejection Depression by Christina Majaski-Holoman from the Institute of Children's Literature. See also Conflict: Taking it Out of Second Gear by Lori Mortensen from ICL.

Point of View chat transcript from the YA Authors Cafe from Feb. 15, 2005. Featured authors were Catherine Atkins, Libba Bray, A.M.Jenkins, and Mary E. Pearson.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Busting Stereotypes

A college student wrote yesterday asking for my thoughts on teaching children to question and, when appropriate, dismiss stereotypes.

This was my reply: To me, the most powerful means of change is by example. Inviting both a Native storyteller to visit the class but also a Native attorney or engineer. Showing powwow video but also images of everyday life.

One of the ways I counteract the stereotype of "the primitive" is to do online chats with classroom groups. Saying Native people are not stuck in the past is one thing. Logging on to chat with one in cyberspace personalizes the experience.

That said, in neither my Native nor non-Indian stories do I set out to "bust stereotypes." I tell a story about characters I can believe in, and for the most part, it's a naturally occurring side effect.

Cynsational News & Links

According to The Purple Crayon, Meredith Mundy Wasinger (formerly of Dutton) has joined Sterling Publishing as a senior editor. She's acquiring picture books and non-fiction. See also Keeping Books In Print by Harold Underdown.

Author Elisa Carbone writes that her novel, Last Dance On Holladay Street (Knopf, 2005) is now available. See the description, author's notes, and review excerpts. Read my related blog entry.

Novelist Anjali Banerjee Mixes Culture and Humor by Linda Johns from Authorlink May 2005. Anjali is the author of Maya Running (Wendy Lamb, 2005). Read my related blog entry.

Empowering Young Girls: Author Julia DeVillers by Sue Reichard from

Thursday, March 24, 2005

If I Only Had The Time...

The trick is to make time--not to steal it--and produce fiction.
--Bernard Malamud*

I have friends who will write a book when they have the time.

Meet folks at parties, the hair salon, and the grocery store. They're on the same someday schedule.

Would-be writers everywhere. They'll get around to it. Eventually, they say.

Clearly, we don't all live under the same set of circumstances. For example, I've never had triplets or a husband running for political office or handimen remodeling my historic house.

Oh, wait. I do qualify on that last one. I've also written while moving, through grief, on the floor of a hotel bathroom in Paris.

I don't fit writing into my life. I fit my life into my writing.

No regrets.

*the Malamud quote came from A Creative Writer's Kit: A Spiritual Companion & Lively Muse For The Writing Life by Judy Reeves, author of A Writer's Book Of Days.

Cynsational News

I received a postcard announcing the publication of Cork and Fuzz by Dori Chaconas, illustrated by Lisa McCue (Viking, 2005), which received a star from Kirkus. It's a level 3 Easy-to-Read for ages 6 to 9, grades 1 to 3.

The Austin Book Nook, benefitting the Austin Children's Shelter, is requesting donations of new or gently used books. The Shelter has indicated a special need for books for newborns up through age 8 and kids 14-17 as well as multicultural books and books in Spanish. Visit the site for more information.

Children's Book Press has released a 15th Anniversary Edition of Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza with an introduction by Sandra Cisneros. More than 400,000 copies of the original book have been sold. The new edition will officially debut at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin on April 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. Garza will also be speaking at the TLA annual conference in conjunction with the rally at the Texas State Capitol on April 6 from 4 to 5 p.m.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Harcourt Picture Book Round-Up Spring 2005

I've already talked about how much I enjoyed Searching For Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (see my blog entry) and Hotel Deep: Light Verse From Dark Water by Kurt Cyrus (see my blog entry) but I also wanted to highlight three more titles on Harcourt's spring 2005 list.

I adored:

the enthusiasm in the language of Starry Safari by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Jeff Mack;

the art from Kitten's Big Adventure, written and illustrated by Mie Araki (related booktalk);

and the title poem from Please Bury Me In The Library by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Kyle M. Stone (related booktalk).

Cynsational Links

J. Patrick Lewis Teacher Resource File from the Internet School Library Media Center.

Frequently Asked Questions From Beginning Writers and Research Is For The Background from Greg Leitich Smith's blog. Greg is the author of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003) and the upcoming companion book, Tofu And T.Rex (Little Brown, July 2005). Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo was recently nominated for the Georgia Children's Book Award for 2005-2006.

Understanding Rejection Slips by Jennifer Minar from Writing Fiction.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hotel Deep: Light Verse From Dark Water by Kurt Cyrus

Hotel Deep: Light Verse From Dark Water by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2005). Dive into the deep, guided by twenty-one poems--wet, witty, and wild--that bring to life the ocean's dangers and delights. Magnificiently illustrated, grand in scope, and yet still child-centric in its focus on a lone sardine in search of his school. All ages. Highly recommended.

Cynsational Thoughts

Hotel Deep is a must-buy, must-read, must-pass-on-to-other-readers kind of picture book.

(And this is coming from a woman who saw "Jaws" at an impressionable age.)

The text is by turns suspenseful, funny, thrilling, and oh-so smart. The paintings are irresistible. I could spend hours studying the art.

Plus, the back matter, featuring mini illos identifying various sea creatures make Hotel Deep not only a poetic and artistic triumph, not only emotionally affecting with an all-ages appeal, but also a wonderful tool for teachers.

In case, I'm not being clear enough, think: amazing! Caldecott-worthy!

Wait, stop thinking and just grab a copy for yourself!

Kurt will be speaking as part of the Poetry Round Up at the Texas Library Association conference in Austin from noon to 1:50 p.m. on April 6 with Brod Bagert, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Pat Mora, Walter Dean Myers, Susan Pearson, Joyce Sidman, Quincy Troupe, and Janet Wong.

By the way, Kurt also illustrated another new book, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story by Anne Bustard (Simon & Schuster, 2005); if you haven't already, read her Story Behind The Story interview. Anne and Kurt will be signing at BookPeople at 6th and Lamar in Austin on April 9 from 1 to 3 p.m.

In addition, Kurt is the illustrator of one of my other favorite books, Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler (Harcourt, 2002).

Cynsational News

I received a note yesterday letting me know That New Animal by Emily Jenkins (FSG/Frances Foster, 2005) and The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (Delacorte, 2005) are now available! Read E. Lockhart's blog.

I also received a postcard from Kimberly Willis Holt announcing the 2005 Random House paperback edition of Keeper of the Night, originally published by Henry Holt in 2003. I love the new cover art! Keeper of the Night received stars from Publisher's Weekly, SLJ, and Kirkus. It was also a BBYA, an ALA Notable, an SLJ Best Book, and a Kirkus Editor's Choice.

Thanks to Allison for mentioning my blog in her March 21, 2005 Live Journal entry. Regarding the death of characters in love stories, kill off as many as you need to (and no more) to get the story told.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Searching For Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda

Searching For Oliver K. Woodman by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Harcourt, 2005). Oliver K. Woodman is missing, but no worries! Private Eye Imogene Poplar is on the case. She travels across the United States, clear to the top of the world (Barrow, Alaska) to bring Oliver home. Ages 4-up. Highly recommended. See also the companion book, The Journey Of Oliver K. Woodman, from the same creative team (Harcourt, 2003).

Cynsational Thoughts

The Oliver K. Woodman books are in many ways a celebration of travel, the diversity within the United States, the kindness of strangers, and the loving appeal of home. The span of U.S. cities and regions also offers a rich opportunity for curriculum connections.

Joe Cepeda has illustrated another book I particularly like, Juan Bobo Goes To Work: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale by Marisa Montes (Harper, 2000), and one of my all-time favorites, What A Truly Cool World by Julius Lester (Scholastic, 1999).

Cynsational Links

An Activity Kit for Searching For Oliver K. Woodman from Harcourt Brace.

An Interview with Author Darcy Pattison and illustrator Joe Cepeda from Harcourt Brace.

An Interview With Julius Lester from

What a Truly Cool World: A Visual Interpretation from Janet Hilbun (hosted on Kay E. Vandergrift's Special Interest Page; one of the children's literature mega resources). Definitely do this. Go to the page and think about what the featured illustration says to you. Then learn more about Visual Interpretive Analysis of Children's Book Illustration.

Who Wrote That? Featuring Marisa Montes from Patricia M. Newman (published in California Kids! May 2003). Patricia's site also offers articles on numerous other children's authors.

Status: currently reading Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (Harcourt, 2005); lately blogging on spookycyn about my cousin, "Six Feet Under," Mr. Clean, Vampire Kisses, ZTejas, and Rebel Angels.

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories For Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories For Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson (Harper, 2005). Features "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee And His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate" by Cynthia Leitich Smith; other contributing authors: Joy Harjo; Sherman Alexie; Richard Van Camp; Linda Hogan; Joseph Bruchac; Louise Erdrich; Susan Power; Greg Sarris; and Lee Francis.

The other writers' work for children and teens includes: The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo, illustrated by Paul Lee (Harcourt, 2000); A Man Called Raven by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by George Littlechild (Children's Book Press, 1997); The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (Hyperion, 1999), and Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac (HarperCollins, 2001).

Cynsational Thoughts

In my short story, "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee And His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate," Jason is defensive and dismissive of a girl who wanders into the costume shop where he works part time, only to realize that he may have misjudged her.*

It's set in near South Austin, which is the same neighborhood where my gothic fantasy takes place.

I'm tremendously honored to have been invited to submit to the anthology and to have my writing featured in such good company. I've had the pleasure of working with Joseph Bruchac on companion YA short stories for an upcoming anthology to be published by Roaring Brook (more on that to come), and on the Okie Indian front, both Joy Harjo and Linda Hogan are among my role models.

In addition, it's been lovely getting to know, Lori, whose other anthologies include Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Hispanic in the United States (Henry Holt, 1994) and its upcoming companion Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States (Henry Holt, 2005). I also enjoyed working on the project with my Harper editor, Rosemary Brosnan.

Note: readers of "A Real-Live Blond Cherokee And His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate" may also want to check out another of my YA short stories, "Riding With Rosa," which appeared in the March/April 2005 issue of Cicada.

Cynsational Links

A Chat With Joseph Bruchac from

The Creative Instinct: An Interview With Louise Erdrich by Robert Spillman from'

Louise Erdrich from Voices From The Gaps: Women Writers of Color.

Greg Sarris and the Native American Literature from the Information Resource Center.

Joy Harjo from Voices From The Gaps: Women Writers of Color.

Linda Hogan from Voices From The Gaps: Women Writers of Color.

Holding A World In Balance: An Interview With Linda Hogan by Camille Colatosti from The Witness.

A Man Called Raven by Richard Van Camp from Children's Book Press.

Susan Power from Voices From The Gaps: Women Writers of Color.

What It Means To Be Sherman Alexie: The Toughest Indian Writer In the World Angles for a Bigger Audience by Russ Spencer from Book magazine.

*Small spoiler alert:
It's my first published story featuring in part a romantic relationship in which no one dies. I'm oddly proud of that.
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