Friday, August 14, 2009

Cynsational News & Giveaways

The Official SCBWI Conference Blog: Alice Pope leads SCBWI's "Team Blog" for up-to-the minute conference countdowns and live blogging from the conference floor! Note: for those who couldn't make it to LA and those who want to look back on the experience.

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott Giveaway from MissAttitude at Reading in Color. Note: includes review and interview links. Deadline: Aug. 18. See also a recent Cynsations interview with Zetta.

The Acquisition Process by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon, to appear in the 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Peek: "Part of the reason why the process can be difficult and time-consuming is simply that it couldn't possibly be more important to publishers. As noted above, this is how publishers build their future, and they want to get it right. So publishers think, and debate, and then think some more." See also updates to Who's Moving Where? News and Staff Changes at Children's Book Publishers. Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Kid's Book Revisions: Online Class and Manuscript Help: taught by Harold Underdown and Eileen Robinson. Now taking registrations for a Sept. to Nov. session. Peek: " We are experienced children's book editors, working together to teach an online manuscript revision class three or four times annually. We also provide a variety of editorial services." Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Check out this new book trailer for One Million Men and Me by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Peter Ambush (Just Us Books, 2007).

How to Be a Children's Book Illustrator: online course (with accompanying blog) from author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell. Peek: "Comprehensive, illustrated lessons come in PDF sessions that you can download and save. Monthly online group calls with teacher Mark Mitchell provide a valuable (but still fun) interactive component. Students also have 24 hour access to the Children’s Book Illustration Wiggio group site where they can chat with each other and Mark, check messages, review portfolios and share files and links." Read a Cynsations interview with Mark.

Critiquing Critiques by Rick Daley from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "I recommend the sandwich approach, where you start with a positive point, give an honest opinion of what doesn’t work for you (may be multiple points), and then end with another positive point or words of encouragement."

Revision by Brian Yansky's at Brian's Blog: Random thoughts on the art and craft of fiction writing. Peek: "Sheepdogs are naturally gregarious and, in my opinion, a bit over the top in their moment-to-moment living. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I tend toward the other end of the spectrum. A little too understated. Perhaps in life. Definitely in fiction." See also He Wasn't a Math Guy. Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee Giveaway from Liz Garton Scanlon at Liz In Ink. Peek: "A signed copy of the book from my own personal stash, mailed to you the DAY the books arrive at my house -- I promise! All you need to do is leave a comment here or on my facebook page or via email." Deadline: today! Aug. 14. Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.

How to Build a Marketing Platform by Christina Katz from Writer's Digest. Peek: "A strong platform includes things like a Web presence, classes you teach, media contacts you've established, articles you've published, public speaking services you offer and any other means you currently have for making your name (and your future works) known to your readership." Source: Laurie Wallmark at Just the Facts, Ma'am: News & Notes for Busy Children's Writers.

A Day in the Life of An Editor by Alvina Ling at Blue Rose Girls. Peek: "If I’m not in a meeting, I'm mainly either responding to emails (including responding to authors and agents about submissions) or reviewing various materials in my inbox that are circulating, such as picture book mechanicals, proof, marketing materials, and so on."

How to Recommend a Book By and About a Person of Color by Chasing Ray. Peek: "It cannot be about something as basic as 'go read a minority book'--it needs to be read a good book on a topic you're interested in, regardless of the color of anyone involved." Note: strongly agreed, though I'd add that for collection building and curriculum purposes, it's still quite helpful to offer bibliographies with a culture/race/ethnicity theme.

Anneographies: "Author Anne Bustard (below) on her fave picture book biographies and a few collected biographies, too, birthday by birthday." Here, Anne takes a peek at two brand new biographies, Cromwell Dixon's Sky Cycle by John Nez (Putnam, 2009) and An Eye for Color: The True Story of Josef Albers by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid (Henry Holt, Sept. 2009). Note: pass on this link to your favorite elementary school teacher or school librarian. Read a Cynsations interview with Anne.

Rising Tide: The Boom in Historical Fiction About India and the Indian Diaspora by Sandhya Nankani from Multicultural Review (PDF). Source: Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk.

The Myth of "Just an Author" by Nathan Bransford from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Peek: "Hemingway found his way to publication in part because he knew the right people (namely F. Scott Fitzgerald), and his success owed a great deal to his larger than life stature, a literary self-promotional archetype dating back to Byron and beyond. Herman Melville became famous because he wrote travelogues..." Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Routines–or Ruts? by Kristi Holl from Writers First Aid. Peek: "You may suspect your routines have become ruts if you are more bored than inspired when you sit down to write." See also Change: Making It Stick.

Congratulations to Jo Knowles on the release of Jumping Off Swings (Candlewick, 2009), which has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly! From the promotional copy: "One pregnancy. Four friends. It all adds up to a profound time of change in this poignant, sensitively written YA novel. Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their 'one-time thing' is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl's life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind."

Engaging the Young Adult Reader by Coert Voorhees from Crowe's Nest. Peek: "...YA doesn’t so much reflect a writer’s decision to write for a particular audience as it does a marketing decision based on a combination of protagonist and narrative stance."

Play It Again, Julie! from Jama Rattigan at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup. A celebration of Julie Larios' poem, "A Night on the Town." Read a Cynsations interview with Julie.

The Picture Perfect Picture Book, featuring Author Kim Norman, Sept. 7 and Sept. 8 in the Writers Retreat from The Institute of Children's Literature. "Drop into the Writer's Retreat discussion board to ask questions for our workshop leader, Kim Norman, on the subject of 'The Picture Perfect Picture Book.' Plot, rhythm, language, pace, how do you balance the elements of great picture books? How can you tell if you've written one? Come and see!"

Enter to win a copy of Dead Girl in Love (Flux, 2009) from author Linda Joy Singleton, and check out her twenty-year timeline to the publication of the trilogy. From the promotional copy: "Oh, wow—I'm my own best friend. Or at least, I'm in her body! Okay, this assignment will be quick and easy. Thanks, Grammy! See, my dead grandmother keeps finding people who have big problems and then I have the freaky experience of stepping into their life—and their body!—to provide help. This time, I'm in the body of my BFF, Alyce. Since Alyce and I know everything about each other, I won't have to do a lot of detective work, which is a definite plus. But, as Alyce, I've got some really pressing questions to answer—starting with, What am I doing in this coffin?" Deadline: Aug. 15.

Sylvan Dell Announces Next Generation EBook, Offers Free Trial of All 45 of Its EBooks from Sara Dobie's Blog. According to publisher and co-founder Lee German, "These are the most technologically advanced eBooks in the world today, featuring Auto-Flip, Auto-Read, and Selectable Language."

Follow Through by Liz Gallagher from Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "The difference between people who have written books and those who want to write books is that those who have written them...have written them. But following through, getting to the end, is hard!" Read a Cynsations interview with Liz.

Slow, Steady Growth for Charlesbridge at 20 by Judith Rosen from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Despite today's harsh retail environment, Charlesbridge, the trade arm of educational press Charlesbridge Publishing Inc. (a privately held company founded in 1980), is doing better than simply holding its own. Over the past decade, its sales have shot past those of CPI, and it is preparing to grow by adding early childhood books." Source: Children's Book Biz News.

Enter to Win August YA Book Giveaways from Teens Read Too, including one of 90 copies of Extras from the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, 2009 reprint edition). Read a Cynsations interview with Scott.

Making your Bookmarks by Kristina Springer at Author2Author. Peek: "First, you need a snazzy design. If you're photoshop savvy, this will be easy for you. You just need to create a bookmark that includes your cover, some book info or a tease about your book, release date, ISBN, your website URL (and e-mail if you'd like), and don't forget to put what age your book is for!"

The Essential Elements of Narrative Nonfiction by Barbara Kerley from I.N.K. Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. Peek: "I revised and revised through 14 drafts, trying to shape an accurate, engaging story. Other books and magazine articles followed, and I began to get a better sense of what needs to be in place for narrative nonfiction to work..."

Social Networking in 15 Minutes a Day from Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent. Peek: "A lot of people wonder how they can do all the online networking they're 'supposed' to do without it completely draining all their time and energy. Well, I don't have all the answers, but I've developed a strategy that works for me..."

Obtaining Cover Blurbs from BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency. Peek: "The important thing to remember in all of this is that no matter who you, your editor, or your agent approach, that author has every right to say no and that's okay. An author's schedule can be insane between writing the next book, revisions, edits, and yes, a large number of requests for blurbs."

The Voices of Autism: A look at some recent books about autism and the people who write them by Suzanne Crowley from School Library Journal. Peek: "What I found were some richly textured works with highly unusual voices, individuals trying to cope and navigate their worlds in unusual ways, and, most surprisingly, characters who possessed sharp insights into human nature and who had much to teach us. And their authors had heartfelt and personal reasons for sharing their stories." See also The Spectrum of Autism Fiction from J.L. Bell at Oz and Ends.

Time - How Long It Takes from Idea to Publication by Carrie Ryan. Peek: "It feels like there's this sudden zeitgeist where people are similarly inspired. And it's not just in writing that this happens -- huge discoveries in our world happen the same way. It's pretty amazing!"

Book Publishing Glossary from Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent. Note: if you want to succeed in the publishing business, it helps to speak the language. Read a Cynsations interview with Nathan.

Show, Don't Tell: a Writing Workshop from April Halprin Wayland at Authors Teaching Authors. Peek: "In effect you're saying, 'I know you’re smart and that I don't have to pound you over the head to tell you I'm sad—I know you will understand it viscerally.'"

Two Contests from author Laurie Faria Stolarz

Black is for Beginnings (Flux, Sept. 2009) Contest: Answer the following questions based on the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares (Llewellyn, 2003-) series:

1. What is Drea's favorite snack?
2. What is the name of the fraternity in Red is for Remembrance (the one that sponsors the charity cruise)?
3. Who is Ms. McNeal?
4. Who is Cory?
5. According to PJ, what does BVS stand for?
6. According to Amber, what does T.O.D. stand for?
7. According to Stacey, what does BJD stand for?
8. According to Stacey, what is a Devic crystal?
9. In White is for Magic, what image does Amber lipliner to her face and why?
10. With all the danger surrounding Hillcrest Prep over the past couple of years, what is the nickname that students have given to the school?

Send responses to Laurie. Winners will receive an autographed (and personalized, upon request) book jacket for Black is for Beginnings. Deadline: Midnight, Aug. 16.

Project 17 (Hyperion, 2007) Contest: To enter, imagine that your mission is to design a new cover for Project 17. "When artists design covers, they read the novel first and create the cover based on the story. If you're not an artist, that's okay. Describe in as much detail as it takes, what you think the cover should look like, taking the story into account. Describe the scene/picture, background, and any details." Explain what colors should be used and why. And if there's a particular way you'd like the title and Laurie's byline listed, explain that as well. Then, explain why you chose this as the cover. What about the story makes your cover most suitable?

Entries may consist of a jpeg of the proposed cover, for the artistically inclined, or entries may include an original photo, in which case, your image will be the description (a picture is worth a thousand words), but be sure to still include an explanation of why the image would make a good cover.

All entries should be sent Laurie. Winners (and their English teacher or favorite young adult librarian) will receive an autographed (and personalized, upon request) copy of the paperback version of Project 17. There will be three winners for this contest. Deadline: Midnight, Aug. 31. Read a related Cynsations interview with Laurie.

More Personally

Highlights of the week included breakfast with YA author Marjetta Geerling, in town from Florida, on Saturday at Waterloo Ice House!

Marjetta is the author of Fancy White Trash (Viking, 2008). From the promotional copy:

"Finding love is simple with the One True Love Plan.

“'If only life were as easy as your sisters.' Abby’s heard that one before. And it’s true —Shelby and Kait aren’t exactly prim and proper. Abby is determined not to follow in their footsteps, so she has created the One True Love Plan. The most important part of the plan is Rule #1: Find Someone New. This means finding a guy who hasn’t already dated Shelby or Kait. But when Abby starts falling for the possible father of Kait’s baby, she has to figure out if some rules are meant to be broken.

"This debut novel, a modern comedy of errors, is as lighthearted and irreverant as its title."

I'm on deadline for Blessed (Candlewick, 2010) right now, but how I wish I could've participated in the mini Austin Authors Writers' Workshop this weekend at Meredith Davis' home!

But Greg had a great time and author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell was kind enough give me a ride to the dinner afterward.

Pictured (from right to left) are Debbie Gonzales, Julie Lake, Jenny Ziegler, and Brian Anderson. Shana Burg is in pink on the other side of the table. Other participants included Varsha Bajaj; Chris Barton; Donna Bratton; Gene Brenek; Alison Dellenbaugh; Helen Hemphill; P. J. Hoover; Carmen Oliver; Lyn Seippel; Andy Sherrod; Don Tate; Brian Yansky; Frances Hill Yansky. See reports with more photos from Greg here, Donna here; Don here; Deb here and here; Alison here, and P.J. here. Note: let me know if I missed any!

Congratulations to author, BookPeople bookseller, & CBAY/Blooming Tree editor Madeline Smoot on the newest addition to the Austin children's-YA literature community!

Cynsational Tip: Don't Believe Everything You Read on the Internet! I read hundreds of posts every week to select those to feature among these links, and I frequently come across completely bogus or outdated information, especially as related to publishing as a business.

Eternal Audiobook Giveaway

Enter to win one of two copies of the new Eternal audiobook (Listening Library, 2009)! One copy will be reserved for a teacher, librarian and/or university professor of children's-YA literature, and one will go to any Cynsations reader!

To enter, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Eternal audio" in the subject line (Facebook and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the title in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31! Reminder: teachers, librarians, and professors should ID themselves in their entries!

More Cynsations Giveaways

Enter to win both Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel, 2009) and Hook by Ed Young (Roaring Brook, 2009)! To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Ed Young" in the subject line (Facebook and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31. Read a previous Cynsations interview with Ed.

Enter to win a paperback of Stealing Heaven (Harper, 2008) and a hardcover of Love You Hate You Miss You (Harper, 2009), both by Elizabeth Scott. To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "Elizabeth Scott" in the subject line (Facebook and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31. Read a related Cynsations interview with Elizabeth.

Enter to win Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Ethan Long (Little, Brown, 2009). To enter this giveaway, email me (scroll and click envelope) with your name and snail/street mail address and type "J. Patrick Lewis" in the subject line (Facebook and MySpace readers are welcome to just message me with the name in the header). Deadline: Aug. 31. Read a previous Cynsations interview with J. Patrick Lewis.

Austin Events
Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Day in the Lone Star State: acclaimed authors Kathi Appelt and Sharon Darrow will lead a conference on the craft of writing for young readers on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 at Teravista (4333 Teravista Club Dr.) in Round Rock, which is located just 20 minutes north of Austin. Note: open to alumni and all other serious writers for young readers! Participants are incoming from nation wide. Spots are filling fast--register today! See more information. Read previous Cynsations interviews with Kathi and Sharon.

"The Main Elements of Story: Plot, Character, Setting, and Theme" with National SCBWI Speaker Chris Eboch sponsored by Austin SCBWI is scheduled for Oct. 10. Attendees will receive a $10 discount when registering for the local January 2010 conference. Seating is limited. Registration opens July 6. Note: Austin SCBWI events often sell out. From the author site: Chris has a new series, Haunted, debuting August 2009 [from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin] with two books: The Ghost on the Stairs and The Riverboat Phantom.

Destination Publication: an annual conference of Austin SCBWI will be held Jan. 30, 2010, and registration will open Sept. 1. Conference faculty will include Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson, Caldecott illustrator David Diaz, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein, author/FSG editor Lisa Graff, agent Andrea Cascardi, agent Mark McVeigh, agent Nathan Bransford, and a to-be-announced editor; see bios. Featured authors will include Chris Barton, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, Liz Garton Scanlon, Jennifer Ziegler, Philip Yates, and Patrice Barton; see author bios. Read Cynsations interviews with Mark, Nathan, Chris, Shana, Jessica, Liz, Jennifer, and Philip.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Voice: Jenny Moss on Winnie's War

Jenny Moss is the first-time author of Winnie's War (Walker, 2009). From the promotional copy:

A debut novel set against the backdrop of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

Life in Winnie's sleepy town of Coward Creek, Texas, is just fine for her. Although her troubled mother’s distant behavior has always worried Winnie, she's plenty busy caring for her younger sisters, going to school, playing chess with Mr. Levy, and avoiding her testy grandmother. Plus, her sweetheart Nolan is always there to make her smile when she's feeling low.

But when the Spanish Influenza claims its first victim, lives are suddenly at stake, and Winnie has never felt so helpless. She must find a way to save the people she loves most, even if doing so means putting her own life at risk.

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

The PB/MG/YA writing community is awesome. I know writers who write for adults--they don't seem to have the same supportive community that we do. This lack of extreme competitiveness is surprising, especially considering there are only a few book "slots" available each year. But I've found that PB/MG/YA writers want to help one another. That made my journey (i.e., struggle) to get published bearable and even enjoyable! And it has made the publishing process more fun.

I joined SCBWI in 2003. Through SCBWI, I found two wonderful critique groups.

The first was a group of writers I met at the national conference in LA: All talented writers and good critiquers. We lived in different places, so worked through e-mails, snail mail, and the occasional conference call.

My second critique group was right here in Houston. I met Mary Ann Hellinghausen at a regional conference, and she invited me to join her critique group. The Yellow House Writers was led by the amazing Joyce Harlow and was so named because we met in Joyce's house and it was yellow. Joyce is an awesome researcher--she spent the night in an underground WWII bunker in Estonia when she was researching one of her books--and is a gifted writer. She served us hot tea in china cups and guided us through many meetings. Another member of the critique group was Bettina Restrepo, who is represented by the Dunham Literary agency.

Through the SCBWI discussion boards, I found Verla Kay's Website for Children's Writers & Illustrators, nicknamed "the Blueboards." I lurked for a while, way too shy to post. I learned so much about the publishing business from Blueboarders, especially the submissions process. Eventually, I began posting, and now I'm a moderator. I've met many many writers through that board. I encourage other shy lurkers to start posting on the Blueboards. There's a warm, welcoming community there.

Through the Blueboards, I learned about the LiveJournal community. No way did I ever think I would have the courage to start a blog. But I did and found many writer friends. It broadened that community for me even more.

Through LJ, I got to know Jackson Pearce. She started the Debut 2009 LJ community ("the Debs"), which is a group of MG and YA authors debuting in 2009. We do some marketing, but are mostly a social group. The ongoing support and community of that group has been amazing. We're going through a similar experience. If a Deb has a question, one of the other fifty of us is bound to know the answer! Or be able to find out!

When I first became involved with SCBWI, I had the very mistaken impression that being involved in a writing organization was the only way to get published.

While I didn't think personal contacts would get me a publishing contract, I did hope that one-on-one critiques with editors would result in a closer look at my manuscript, as compared to the slush pile experience. But after all the conferences and critiques, I ended up getting pulled out of slush anyway!

What I did get from the conferences, critiques, SCBWI, the blueboards, and LJ: a community of other writers. And now after all this talking about that community, I'm at a loss for words in trying to succinctly describe its importance to me. But I'm very appreciative of it and thankful for it.

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book?

I've had so much going on in my life this past year, it's been difficult to properly promote my book. I've had to pass up some opportunities (e.g., Internet venues, interviews, contacts with teachers and librarians) because of the craziness of life. But I do think there are so many marketing options for writers right now, even if I'd had more time, I couldn't have done it all!

Winnie's War was released on February 3, 2009. The following Saturday, I had a launch party at my local B&N. A friend had designed a postcard invite for me. I'd paid Kinko's to print up 300 invites and mailed them out to mostly friends, but also to a few teachers and librarians in the area. Many friends came--one dressed in 1918 garb, dropping off cookies and lemonade, and bringing their friends. A reporter from a local paper took pictures. A high school friend I hadn't seen in thirty years surprised me and showed up! I talked to many kids about my book. Adults were interested in the research I did. I thought I'd be too nervous to have fun, but it was a wonderful wonderful day.

We sold out of books, which made my CRM happy. But it felt more like a party than a book signing to me. I highly recommend debut authors having a launch party.

What I learned was what Elizabeth Bunce had told me before the party: Have a party--your friends and family want to celebrate with you.

Each of the Debs posted an interview with me on her (or his - we have boy Debs) blog or LJ. I also did some non-Deb interviews, a couple for local newspapers. I hired a website designer and worked with him to get up a site.

I'm now focused on visiting schools and libraries. I'm looking forward to talking to readers.

I am enjoying the process so much. This is what I've always wanted to do. I'm having a blast.

My advice would be to make friends with other writers. Come out of your shell. Reach out to others. Join groups. All of it does take time, but it is definitely definitely worth it.

Cynsational Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Celebrating Varian Johnson's & Jennifer Taylor's VCFA MFA WC&YA Degrees

The Austin children's-YA writing community (and friends) gathered to celebrate Varian Johnson and Jennifer Taylor's recent graduation from the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults last Thursday at Waterloo Ice House.

Congratulations to the graduates! Varian's next novel, Saving Maddie, will be published by Delacorte in March 2010. Read Cynsations interviews with Varian and with Varian and his co-founders of The Brown Bookshelf. Jen is not an Austinite, but she joined us for a while after the Galveston Hurricane and we're hoping to lure her back permanently.

Special thanks to authors Shana Burg (with balloons) and Jennifer Ziegler (with bag) for party planning! Author Carmen Oliver smiles from the left-hand side of the frame. Shana's latest novel is A Thousand Never Evers (Delacorte, 2008), and Jenny's is How Not To Be Popular (Delacorte, 2008). Read Cynsations interviews with Shana and Jenny.

Here's a closer look at Carmen and Jenny.

Here we have picture book authors Liz Garton Scanlon--author of the quickly forthcoming All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane, 2009)--and Jane Peddicord, whose most recent release is That Special Little Baby (Harcourt, 2007). This week Liz is sponsoring a giveaway of All the World, which has received stars from SLJ, Kirkus, and the Horn Book!

Fellow VCFA WC&YA graduate Gene Brenek with Varian. Cynsations readers may remember Gene as the artistic genius behind the Tantalize and Eternal logos at my Sanguini's shop at CafePress. Read a Cynsations interview with Gene.

St. Edward's University education professor Judy Leavell (in blue) chats with authors P.J. Hoover and Anne Bustard as well as Varian's wife, Crystal. P.J. looks forward to the upcoming release of The Forgotten Worlds Book 2: The Navel of the World (CBAY, 2009). Anne is the author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 2005) as well as the mastermind behind Anneographies, a blog celebrating picture book biographies. In addition, she is a third-semester student in the VCFA WC&YA program. Read Cynsations interviews with P.J. and Anne.

Author Greg Leitich Smith poses with VCFA WC&YA graduate Debbie Dunn and VCFA WC&YA second-semester student Meredith Davis. Meredith is currently enrolled in the picture book concentration semester.

Debbie again, this time with first-semester VCFA student Sean Petrie. Sean is jointly enrolled in both the MFA in Writing (for adults) and the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults programs.

2009 debut authors Chris Barton and Debbie Gonzales. Chris is the author of The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, illustrated by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge, 2009). Debbie is the author of several books to be published in New Zealand's Gilt Edge Readers Series. In addition, she's the founder of the Student Author Book Publishing Program. Check out her new blog, Simple Saturdays. Read Cynsations interviews with Chris and Debbie.

Writers' League of Texas executive director Cyndi Hughes smiles with author Cynthia Levinson. Hear Cynthia speak on "Writing for the Magazine Market" at 11 a.m. Aug. 15 at BookPeople in conjunction with Austin SCBWI.

Author Betty X. Davis, who's received media attention for writing into her 90s, chats with debut author Jenny Moss, who drove in from Houston for the event. Jenny is the debut author of Winnie's War (Walker, 2009). Look for a Cynsations interview with Jenny tomorrow!

YA author Jessica Lee Anderson chats with fellow writer Erin Edwards in the foreground, and author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell visits with P.J. in the background. Jessica's next novel, Border Crossing, will be released by Milkweed in fall 2009. Read a Cynsations interviews with Jessica and Mark. Learn more about Mark's blog and online class, How To Be a Children's Book Illustrator.

P.J. with Chris.

Author Brian Yansky is a graduate of the VCFA MFA in Writing (for adults) program. Brian's next novel, Alien Invasions and Other Inconveniences, will be published by Candlewick in 2010. Check him out at Brian's Blog: Writer Talk (especially recommended to fans of sheepdogs).

Here's one last cheer for Jen!

And one last cheer for Varian!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Craft, Career & Cheer: Arthur Slade

Learn more about author Arthur Slade.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

I write in my office, which is in the basement of my home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (It's near Moose Jaw, in case anyone wonders).

Through the window I can see the sun shine or the snow pile up, but it's such a small view that it never distracts me from my work.

I start writing at about 7 a.m. every morning (except Sunday) and write until noon.

I take a break every 40 minutes to clear my head. I find I work much harder if I know I'm going to get a break.

After years of writing at the same time every day, my brain wakes up every morning expecting to write. I will sometimes write in the afternoon, but that is usually the time I spend doing all the other writerly chores: paper filing, phone calls, organizing things, big contract signing (err, any contract signing, I should say).

Oh, and I should add that I write on a treadmill desk. Yep, it's weird. Yep, it works. Yep, it actually helps my writing. But it's far to much to explain, so just visit this link.

Why is your agent the right agent for you?

My agent is Scott Treimel, and he's the right agent for me because he catches onto my jokes. Or at least he laughs at them.

All kidding aside, since I first signed with him in 2000, I have had an increase in money (which is kind of nice), and, perhaps more importantly, he's really helped me push my skill as a writer to the next level.

In the beginning stages, he worked hard (for months) on my novel Tribes (Wendy Lamb Books, 2002) before he would submit it. He is an extremely good editor and extremely picky. It was so helpful for me at that stage to realize how much harder I had to work to make my writing stronger.

And he does try to build a career for authors, instead of just selling book by book. I really appreciate his approach. And finally he's quite generous.

Did I mention he bought me lunch?

Could you tell us about your latest book?

My upcoming book is The Hunchback Assignments (Wendy Lamb/Random House, Sept. 2009). I'd recently read The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and really wanted to do something that was inspired by it. I'd also been reading Sherlock Holmes (1887-1927). So, I wondered how I could fuse the two.

The biggest problem was how to have a hunchbacked detective? He'd really stand out. So I hit upon the idea of him being able to change his shape so that he could look like other people. It is explained as an evolutionary development, and he goes back to being the hunchback after several hours.

In my novel, he is raised by a British lord to be a secret agent for the British empire. This meant that I could tap into all sorts of Victorian literature for my inspiration (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, (1886) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), anything by Dickens (1812-1870)).

It's the first book in a series, and it has been an absolutely wonderful experience writing these books. I feel like a kid again. Which, as a writer, is my main goal!

Cynsational Notes

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children's-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Author Interview: Lyn Miller-Lachmann on Gringolandia

Lyn Miller-Lachmann on Lyn Miller-Lachmann: "Since 1994, I have served as Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review, a quarterly journal that publishes articles and reviews on aspects of diversity in the United States and around the world.

"I edited the award-winning multicultural bibliography of children’s and young adult books, Our Family, Our Friends, Our World (Bowker, 1992) and Once Upon a Cuento (Curbstone Press, 2003), a collection of short stories for young readers by Latino authors.

"My first novel for adults, the eco-thriller Dirt Cheap was published by Curbstone in 2006.

"Gringolandia is my second novel for young adults and my first to appear in 22 years.

"I have two children and live with them and my husband, a sociologist, in Albany, New York."

Congratulations on the release of Gringolandia (Curbstone, 2009)! Could you fill us in on the story?

In 1980 in Santiago, Chile, 11-year-old Daniel Aguilar watched helplessly as his taxi driver/underground journalist father was beaten and arrested by the secret police of then-dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Nearly six years later, Daniel, his mother, and his younger sister live in Madison, Wisconsin, and the immigrant teenager, now 17, considers himself "American." He plays in a rock band, has a cute and smart "gringa" girlfriend, and has started to apply for his U.S. citizenship.

Then his father is suddenly released and rejoins his family in exile. Daniel doesn't recognize his father after years of prison and torture. He wants a relationship with the father he remembers, but all his father wants to do is return to Chile to continue the struggle—unless he drinks himself to death first.

Daniel's effort to reach his damaged father, complicated by the interference of a gringa girlfriend with her own agenda, lies at the heart of the book.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, in the 1980s, and many of my friends there were from Central and South America.

Through them, I became involved in several organizations seeking to change our government's policy toward the region.

Among my closest friends was a family who had fled the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, a dictatorship that came to power in 1973 with U.S. support. Through this family and other exiled Chileans, I helped to organize concerts of musicians from Chile who were living in exile or working underground within the country to restore democracy.

One of the exiled musicians had recently reunited with his son after a separation of nearly 12 years. Seeing them together—they stayed in my house for several days while on tour—gave me the idea for writing a novel about a son and a father reunited after experiences that had so drastically changed them both.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

After the event that sparked the novel, I didn't start writing for another year. My first YA novel, Hiding Places (1987) came out in the meantime, and my son was born. The encouraging response to Hiding Places, including an editor from a major publisher who was interested in my idea, spurred me to complete the manuscript.

In fall 1989, I received a SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant to travel to Chile for research. But shortly before I was supposed to leave, the editor dropped the project. I went anyway in early 1990, traveled through the country, interviewed former political prisoners and human rights activists and their families, and observed the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

Upon my return I talked to several editors at other publishers, but we couldn’t agree on the direction of the novel. I put it aside and gave up writing fiction altogether.

That's when I became a commentator on multicultural children's books and editor of MultiCultural Review. I didn't return to the manuscript again in earnest until 2006, when my adult novel, Dirt Cheap, was about to appear from the independent literary publisher Curbstone Press.

At that time, I completely rewrote the story now titled Gringolandia, changing the narrative from third to first person, adding a second point-of-view character, and totally changing the ending.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing Gringolandia to life?

Probably the biggest challenge, particularly after I became a critic of multicultural children’s literature, was whether I, as a cultural outsider, had the "right to write" a book about a Chilean-American family. In fact, bringing in the character of Courtney, "la gringa," was a way for me to work through this issue, as Courtney takes Marcelo’s (Daniel’s father's) story and "translates" it to an audience in the United States, with mixed and sometimes unexpected results.

Having lived among Chilean exiles and been part of the "committee" for many years, I became familiar with the foods, the language (including the unique Chilean slang), the challenges parents and children faced, and their (especially the adults') nostalgia for their beautiful but suffering country between the mountains and the sea.

Once I finished the book, I was particularly gratified that Marjorie Agosín, a Chilean-American poet, essayist, and memoirist whose work I have long admired, chose to endorse it.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were a beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Take advantage of networking opportunities. Don't be intimidated or give up if a few doors slam in your face.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, negotiations, etc.) of being an author?

It’s a hard balance to strike, especially when you add in a family and a full-time job. For me, it’s the writing that gets shortchanged because the others have tangible results, and writing is far more uncertain. Even experienced and successful authors have manuscripts that don't work out or don't sell. I have to give myself permission to write.

What are your three favorite YA reads of 2009 and why?

There’s an interesting pair of novels that came out at the same time and cover different aspects of the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 1960s in the South and the North, respectively—Bethany Hegedus's Between Us Baxters (WestSide, 2009) and Kekla Magoon’s The Rock and the River (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2009).

In fact, Bethany and Kekla, who met at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, give joint presentations to middle schools on the history of the civil rights movement.

I was so impressed with their books and other materials that I asked them to write an article that's appearing in the winter 2009 issue of MultiCultural Review.

Another recent book that I liked—it actually came out at the end of 2008—is Padma Venkatraman’s Climbing the Stairs (Putnam, 2008). It's set in India during the Second World War and the height of the independence struggle. The author does a superb job of weaving historical events into the family's story.

You also are the editor-in-chief of MultiCultural Review! Could you tell us a little about the publication?

MultiCultural Review publishes feature and book and media reviews on aspects of cultural diversity in the United States and around the world. The quarterly journal began in 1992; I took over as editor-in-chief at the end of 1994.

About a third of our reviews focus on children’s books and more than half of our articles are multicultural bibliographies or discuss ways of using multicultural books in the K-12 classroom.

Among them is a semi-annual column on recommended children’s and young adult books in Spanish and country-specific bibliographies focusing on different regions in Asia.

Why are multicultural books for young readers such a passion for you?

I used to teach high school in New York City, and my students responded to books that portrayed their experiences and affirmed their heritage.

I remember holding a contest one year, and the grand prize was a copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). It's a difficult book for any reader, but the winner, a Puerto Rican girl, came back next year to let me know how much she loved the book and how it opened her eyes to the richness of Latin American history and culture.

This was at one of the roughest high schools in the city—it has since been closed down—and the students weren’t used to teachers who listened to them and materials that reflected their lives.

What do you do in your so-called spare time?

Watch my kids play video games. Due to poor eye-hand coordination, I never get beyond the first level, but my daughter is especially skilled. She’s been beating her older brother at combat games since she was four years old.

What can your fans look forward to next?

When my editor at Curbstone Press accepted Gringolandia, he suggested I write a companion or sequel from the point of view of Daniel's younger sister, Tina. I was thinking along the same lines myself, so I agreed to do it.

Several months after I finished the first draft, he passed away suddenly, but I'm moving ahead with revisions and will probably start shopping the manuscript around in the fall.
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