Friday, December 16, 2011

Cynsational News & Giveaways

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

YALSA Announces Nonfiction Award Finalists from YALSA's The Hub. The finalists are:

Julia Churchill of the Greenhouse Agency by Jo Wyton from Notes from the Slushpile: "She's based in London, looking after the UK side of the agency." See also Editorial Director Maurice Lyon of children's books at Frances Lincoln.

Holiday Shopping? Editor Laura Atkins is offering gift certificates for her critiquing and mentoring, author Ralph Fletcher is selling signed copies of his books for children, young writers, and writing teachers, and author Anastasia Suen is offering gift certificates for her online children's writing workshops.

African-Americans in Graphic Novels from YALSA's The Hub. Peek: "From what I’ve discovered, there are a number of appealing, well-written graphic novels with African-American characters. What I didn’t see were that many female African-American characters in these graphics compared to male characters. There is also a real lack of comics written and illustrated by women. Hopefully, that will change."

“Chrissy’s Classroom” seeks book donations for Shiprock High School, an under-served school in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, from Cory Putnam Oats. Note: Chrissy Costello is there in conjunction with Teach for America Program, and the school serves children of the Navajo Nation.

Nominate Your Favorite Books of 2011 for the Teen Choice Book of the Year from teenreads. Peek: "In association with the Children’s Book Council (CBC) and Every Child a Reader (ECAR), is giving you a very special opportunity to let your voices be heard by telling us your five favorite books of 2011. The five titles that receive the most votes will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2012 Teen Choice Book of the Year. Once the five finalists have been determined, we will tell you where you can go vote for them. The winner will be announced in May 2012."

Interview with Barnes & Noble Children's Bookseller: Cerelle Woods from Kathryn Lay. Peek: "As far as age groups, I think there’s a real need for “tween” books—both for boys and girls. Parents really hesitate to buy teen books for their 12-14 year olds. They are worried about the content. Another thin genre is realistic fiction for young boys. I hear so many parents tell me that their sons simply don’t enjoy fantasy and want something more 'true-to-life.'"

A Sense of Self by Donald Maas from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "The protagonists in fiction serve a similar purpose. We look to them as models. What we want from them is not just entertaining stories but examples of how we can feel, see the world, conduct ourselves, grow and change. We admire them, learn from them, celebrate them and return to them over and over for inspiration." Source: Phil Guinta.

Holiday Art Implosion from Jesse Joshua Watson. Jesse is offering original art, both fine art and children's book illustration, on sale (30% off the list price) with free shipping anywhere in the U.S. through Christmas. "Imagine your walls beaming with original art from Hope For Haiti, I AND I- Bob Marley, Chess Rumble, Ghetto Cowboy... or any of Jesse’s original portraits of jazz, blues, and reggae musicians, or his evocative surf and snow scenes." Contact him directly at: mail at jessewatson dot com.

The Power Within: An Anti-Bullying Comic Book that's Free for your GSA, school or youth services group from Lee Wind at I'm Here, I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? Peek: "...about Shannon, a guy going into 8th grade who has an imaginary superhero alter-ego to deal with being bullied. But when things escalate Shannon can't retreat into his imagination, and he has to find the power within himself to triumph."

The Sense of Ending by Tim Wynne-Jones from Write at Your Own Risk. Peek: " Fiction, according to Kermode, is about the humanizing of time. We want a beginning, middle and ending; we want shape Story  --  something that means."

Authors Against Animal Abuse: The Auctions from Christine Johnson. Peek: "100% of the proceeds from these auctions will go to benefit the Humane Society of Indianapolis."

Writing Diversity: Avoiding the Magical Negro by Stacy Whitman from Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. Peek: "The trope is a trope because it can make a story work. Yet just because it’s something that works doesn’t mean it’s something we shouldn’t try to avoid when we can, especially because the trope can be pretty caustic, too."

2012 Novel Writing Retreat for Middle Grade & Young Adult Writers to feature authors Coe Booth and Holly Black with Little, Brown editor Alvina Ling from March 16 to March 18 at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Note: "The fee includes accommodations (double occupancy) in the dorms at Vermont College for Friday and Saturday nights." You do not have to be a VCFA student or alumnus to participate; all children's-YA novelists are eligible.

Australian Children's Laureates Announced from IBBY Australia. Peek: "...congratulates children’s authors Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor as the first Australian Children’s Laureates. Each of them brings a wealth of skill, experience and passion for children’s literature to the role."

Agent Spotlight: Nicole Resciniti from Literary Rambles. Peek: "A consummate science geek and card-carrying Mensa member, Nicole would love to find the next great science fiction/fantasy novel or action/adventure masterpiece." Note: represents YA.

Author-illustrator Interview: Naomi Rose on Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: "The doctor was baffled about the unexpected healing. But Tibetan man explained that the disease couldn't live in a body filled with so much love. It was such a beautiful story of the power of kindness and community, I knew I had to write it for children."

First Book Fundraiser from Teaching Authors. During December, the TeachingAuthors are sponsoring a fundraiser on their blog in support of First Book, an organization “determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books.” For every comment posted at this month (one per person, please), the TeachingAuthors will donate $1 to First Book, up to $225. Every $2.50 donated provides a brand-new book to a child in need. And through Dec. 31, Disney Publishing Worldwide will match every $1 donated with another new book. Their goal is to send 315 new books to children in need. Visit for details, and to post your comment.

See also This Week for Writers from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.

Austin SCBWI’s Community Outreach Project

The fall of 2011 left the Bastrop community ravaged by Texas forest fires. Even though the Bastrop Public Library escaped damage to their building, many of their books perished because they had been checked out in the community.

In an effort to help those affected, the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) called on the generosity of the Kid-Lit community. Over 1,000 books and funds totaling $285 were donated and awarded to the Bastrop Public Library and the Bastrop Friends of the Library.

A deep, earnest, heart-of-Texas thank you to the schools, SCBWI chapters, and individuals who donated from coast to coast. See more information and photos.

Source: ARA Carmen Oliver.

Austin SCBWI Regional Conference 2012: Something for Everybody is scheduled from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19.

Cynsational Giveaways

"Haunted Love," a short story by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available for free download from Barnes & Noble (U.S.), Books on Board, (U.S.) and (U.K.). It will be available from additional e-retailers soon. From the promotional copy:

Spirit, Texas, is a town of secrets, and as the new owner of the local haunted movie theater, Cody Stryker is juggling more than his fair share. 

When a mysterious new girl comes to town and runs afoul of the ghost that lives in his theater, Cody’s caught in the middle and needs to figure out exactly who he can trust.

"Haunted Love" is a short story by New York Times Bestseller Cynthia Leitich Smith -- featuring new characters and set in the same Gothic universe as her novels Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle.

Thanks so much to Bookshelves of Doom for the shout out about "Haunted Love" as well as to everyone who retweeted the announcement. Your support is noticed and deeply appreciated!

More Giveaways

Enter to win an ARC of Diabolical and Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson (Milkweed, 2011) from P.J. Hoover at Roots in Myth! Deadline: Dec. 17.

The winner of Home for the Holidays: Mother-Daughter Book Club #5 by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster, 2011)(excerpt), plus a copy of the newly released Betsy-Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace, illustrated by Lois Lenski (HarperCollins, 2011) and the first two Betsy-Tacy high school books, in a special Betsy-Tacy canvas bag is Megan in Illinois. The runner-up winners are Sara in Ohio and someone who has yet to respond. They'll both receive signed copies of Home for the Holidays: Mother-Daughter Book Club #5.

The winner of a critique by Peggy of a nonfiction picture book manuscript or the first three chapters of a longer nonfiction manuscript and a signed copy of Anatomy of Nonfiction by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas (Writers Institute Publications, 2011) is Joanna in Nice, France.

The winner of an author-signed copy of The Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, 2012) is Deb in Washington.

Looking for new giveaways at Cynsations next week!

Recent Cynsations Posts

Cynsational Screening Room

A video featuring author S.E. Hinton on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma, talking about the film adaptation of "The Outsiders". Note: "The Outsiders has sold over 10 million copies in North America and is secondly only to Charlotte's Web in total sales of books to young people." Source: Elizabeth Cole.

A video interview with Brenda Reeves Sturgis on 10 Turkeys in the Road from Good Morning Maine.

More Personally

In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews says of Girl Meets Boy: Because There Are Two Sides to Every Story, edited by Kelly Milner Halls (Chronicle, 2012): "Each of the authors excels at creating vibrant, sympathetic, honest characters with voices that will appeal to older teens, male and female alike." My pairing with Joseph Bruchac is specifically referenced: "...a likable, tough girl muscles in on a bully who is harassing the object of her crush."

Cynthia Leitich Smith on Diabolical: From Literary Homage to Growing the Craft from Uma Krishnaswami at Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: "Put mildly, the psychological and intellectual challenges have been numerous and formidable. The experience has equipped me with a toolbox of skills that I hope to carry into future projects. But my more valuable takeaway is what I learned about YA readers and my relationship to them."

Cecilia Richards of ReadPlus in South Australia says of Tantalize: Kieren's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle: "...dark and thrilling. I loved that Kieren does everything he can to protect Quincie. The illustrations are beautiful and add that extra depth to the storyline."

Thank you to Reading Lark for making Diabolical for Waiting on Wednesday pick this week!

Thank you to Multicultural Literature Resources for recommending Cynsations!

Recent local highlights included the Austin SCBWI Holiday Party at Opal Divine's Marina.

Author P.J. Hoover, author-illustrator Salima Alikhan, Salima's husband Sam Marx, 
and writer/blogger/Literary Lonestar Stephanie Pelligrin.

Author-illustrators Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby
Note: illustrator Patrice Barton in the background.

Writer Shelli Cornelison and YA author/columnist Margo Rabb.

Also I enjoyed the Texas Sweethearts and Scoundrels Holiday event at The Book Spot in Round Rock.

 Authors Jessica Lee Anderson, P.J. Hoover, Jeanette Larson, Jo Whittemore, and K.A. Holt.

Author-illustrators Don Tate and Emma Virjan to the either side of Don's son, Kolby Tate.

From Greg Leitich Smith
Cynsational Events

Holiday Tree Lighting and Author Signing at LBJ State Park! Join Cynthia Leitich Smith for the tree lighting ceremony at LBJ State Park from 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Cynthia will be signing Holler Loudly, illustrated by Barry Gott (Dutton, 2010). Lucy Johnson will be speaking briefly at the event, and Santa may make an appearance, too. See more information.

See also Cynthia's upcoming events in Austin, Albuquerque, Tucson, Sandy (Utah), Southampton (New York), and Montpelier (Vermont).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Guest Post: Bonnie Christensen on Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol

By Bonnie Christensen
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Woody Guthrie. Andy Warhol.

What could these two possibly have in common?

Impossible childhoods.

My friend and neighbor, John Hannah, was so amazed that I’d chosen such seemingly diverse subjects for picture book bios that he concocted this image (right) which appeared in my mailbox one day and has kept me laughing ever since.

Why Andy Warhol? The discrepancy between the perceived and the reality maybe. The persona he created for himself. His sly “honesty”. The fact that he’d pay friends for ideas. His wit as showcased in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : (From A to B and Back Again) (1975).

I first read Warhol’s Philosophy while living in New York in the late ‘70s and I’ve been quoting, and living by his “three rules” since—

  1. Never complain about a situation while the situation is going on.
  2. If you can’t believe it’s happening, pretend it’s a movie.
  3. After it’s over, find somebody to pin the blame on and never let them forget it.

Okay, I’m not so big on the last one, but the first two work beautifully!

His overall philosophy, difficult childhood, and the fact that he illustrated shoes for years made him an incredibly appealing subject. Also I’d worked in theatre in New York and was cast in a play at Actors Studio by Taylor Mead, a Warhol superstar. A fascination with “all things Warhol” took hold.

Photo by Don Landwehrle.
A few centuries later, I hunkered down to write a picture book bio on pop art icon. I started writing, then realized it couldn’t be done. Down it went to the basement dead file. The next year the three rules started buzzing in my brain again and I brought the manuscript back upstairs from the basement. After a few months in the live file, it went back to the basement.

This went on for a very long time, and then one day I realized it wasn’t necessary to tell the story of his entire life.

We could begin and end with him at Max’s Kansas City eating chick peas and the rest of the story, childhood to Max’s days, would be a flashback. At that point, I began writing in earnest and the manuscript never went to the basement again!

The next question was the art. My editor, Christy Ottaviano, and I agreed that we wanted something edgy but not imitative. I was teaching art at the time, and some of my students were experimenting with a photo transfer method which I adopted and adapted for the illustrations.

It’s an acrylic transfer method that can be found on various websites and involves a lot of washing off of paper. One day while the images were drying it struck me how odd it might look to a passerby to see a bunch of paintings on a drying rack.

Then there was the question of rights to reproduce Warhol’s work. The cost of the number of images needed would have been enormous, so I did what Andy would have done – copied. Marilyns, flowers, soup cans, cats, money, all the “Warhol” paintings in the books are copies, a fact acknowledged on the copyright page.

So that’s some of the story of Fabulous! A Portrait of Andy Warhol (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, 2001). And here are a few interior pages.

A number of surprising facts are included in the author’s note, including the fact that Warhol sometimes worked at a soup kitchen. Yes, he had a social conscience!

Let’s give the once poor boy from Pittsburgh the last word.

“America is really The Beautiful,” Warhol said. “But it would be more beautiful if everybody had enough money to live.”

In Memory: Russell Hoban

Russell Hoban, author, dies aged 86 by Alison Flood from The Guardian. Peek: "Hoban, born in Pennsylvania but a resident of London for more than 30 years, first made a name for himself with his children's books; his series about Frances the badger and his novel The Mouse and His Child are acclaimed as modern classics."

See more information about Russell Hoban and his children's books from HarperCollins.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Voice: Winifred Conkling on Sylvia & Aki

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Winifred Conkling is the first-time author of Sylvia & Aki (Tricycle Press, 2011). From the promotional copy: 

Sylvia never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle. All she wanted was to enroll in school.

Aki never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert. All she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year.

The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever.

Here is the remarkable story based on true events of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu, two ordinary girls living in extraordinary times. When Sylvia and her brothers are not allowed to register at the same school Aki attended - instead, they are sent to a "Mexican school" - the stage is set for Sylvia's father to challenge in court the separation of races in California's schools. 

Ultimately, Mendez vs. Westminster School District led to the desegregation of California schools and helped build the case that would end school segregation nationally.

As a historical fiction writer, what drew you first – character, concept, or historical period? In whichever case, how did you go about building your world and integrating it into the story? What were the special challenges? Where did you turn for inspiration or support?

As soon as I heard about Sylvia Mendez, I knew I wanted to write about her. I actually had a lightning-bolt moment: I was listening to NPR on the car radio when I heard a report about the 50th anniversary of the Brown. v. Board of Education lawsuit that desegregated the public schools.

The story mentioned a discrimination case that happened years before the Brown case. It involved a nine-year-old Mexican-American girl who wasn’t allowed to go to the “white” school near her home. The girl’s father filed a lawsuit, and Thurgood Marshall -- the famous civil rights attorney – wrote a supporting brief that included the argument he would use seven years later in the Brown case.

Without Sylvia Mendez and her lawsuit, the landmark Brown case wouldn’t have happened the way it did. I was so fascinated by the NPR report that I actually pulled my car over on the side of the road and started taking notes. Seriously.

I started reading everything I could about Sylvia Mendez and the lawsuit her father filed against the school system in Orange County, California. I read thousands of pages of transcripts of the trial. To some people that might sound boring, but I found it fascinating.

Today it’s hard to imagine a Superintendent of Schools calling a group of children “inferior” in their ability to learn and saying they have “generally dirty hands, face, neck, and ears,” but that’s what happened. I cringed when I imagined Sylvia, an impressionable third-grade girl, sitting in a courtroom and listening to her school superintendent testify under oath that he considered her inferior to the white students. I couldn’t believe the cruelty of the testimony.

I wanted my readers to share my outrage, so I used the actual court transcripts as the basis of the dialogue in the court scene in Sylvia & Aki. I didn’t want to rewrite or reinterpret history. Instead, I let the Superintendent speak for himself, which I think provides a much more powerful sense of the prejudices and discrimination experienced by Mexican-Americans in southern California, 1945.

I knew the segregation lawsuit would be the backbone of the story, but as I did my research, I became emotionally involved in a second, equally compelling story that happened at the same time. In the early 1940s, Japanese families in southern California were removed from their homes and farms and forced into internment camps for the duration of World War II.

Sylvia’s story began in 1941 when she moved to a farm in Westminster, California, and was told she had to go to a “Mexican school.” But another young girl – a Japanese girl named Aki – had lived on that farm until she was forced to move to Poston, an internment camp. Here was a second young girl who was also subjected to heartbreaking discrimination. In addition to leaving her home, Aki was separated from her father for years because he was sent to a different internment camp.

Ultimately, I realized that Sylvia and Aki both had important stores to share. Their life journeys were intertwined, and I didn’t think I could tell one story without including the other.

How did you approach the research process for your story? What resources did you turn to? What roadblocks did you run into? How did you overcome them? What was your greatest coup, and how did it inform your manuscript?

About Winifred
Since my book is based on actual events, the first thing I did was find Sylvia and Aki, who were now in their seventies, and make sure they were comfortable with me telling their stories.

I found them both in southern California, not too far from the 40-acre asparagus farm where my book takes place.

I spoke with the women on the phone several times, and then I went to California to interview them in person. By that time, I had fallen in love with their story and I just wanted to tell it the best way I knew how.

I struggled with the format for the book. I wrote it as nonfiction, then I rewrote it as fiction. I wrote it in first-person, then rewrote it in third-person. I wrote it using a three-part format – Sylvia’s story, Aki’s story, then the summer with the girls together – then I rewrote it in alternating points of view on a single timeline. The story is complicated in that there are distinct narrative threads, but the two story lines share a lot of common themes, and, in the end, the girls did spend time together and become friends in the summer of 1945.

My ultimate goal was to tell the story in a way that would make it most accessible to young readers. The story was true, but I wanted it to read like a novel so that young readers would identify with Sylvia and Aki as children, not historical figures.

At first I worried that choosing a fictional approach might undermine the truth of the story, but I ultimately decided that the Truth – capital “T”, the emotional truth – of what happened could best be conveyed in fiction.

I didn’t want to misrepresent any of the events, so I had both Sylvia and Aki review the text to make sure it was accurate. When they both told me I got it right, then I knew I had chosen the correct approach.

Cynsational Notes

See teachers guide for Sylvia & Aki.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Haunted Love" E-Short Story By Cynthia Leitich Smith Now Available for Free Download

"Haunted Love," a short story by Cynthia Leitich Smith is now available for free download from Barnes & Noble (U.S.), Books on Board, (U.S.) and (U.K.). It will be available from additional e-retailers soon. From the promotional copy:

Spirit, Texas, is a town of secrets, and as the new owner of the local haunted movie theater, Cody Stryker is juggling more than his fair share. 

When a mysterious new girl comes to town and runs afoul of the ghost that lives in his theater, Cody’s caught in the middle and needs to figure out exactly who he can trust.

"Haunted Love" is a short story by New York Times Bestseller Cynthia Leitich Smith -- featuring new characters and set in the same Gothic universe as her novels Tantalize, Eternal, Blessed, and Tantalize: Kieren's Story, illustrated by Ming Doyle.

This story includes a sneak preview of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s upcoming novel, Diabolical (Jan. 2012), which unites heroes from the previous three novels in the Tantalize Series along with a fascinating cast of all-new characters for a suspenseful, action-packed clash between the forces of heaven and hell.

Cynsational Notes

Published by Candlewick Press (N. America) and Walker Books (U.K.).

Litter Box: Scoop Daily observes: "...sometimes after reading a lengthy novel, a short story is exactly what you need. If you find that this is where you are at...I recommend this be the one."

Monday, December 12, 2011

GIFT TAG: an eBook for the Holidays

By Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
Photos by Sylvia Vardell
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Why did we create GIFT TAG?

We want you to look at flowers and remember—

remember a good neighbor the way Joan Bransfield Graham does:

“Our neighbor had a greenhouse in her backyard and grew orchids. I was about four years old and wanted to buy one for my mother for Christmas. Rosalind told me to come by to choose one and this is what happened . . . ”

Gift for My Mother
by Joan Bransfield Graham
. . .
I choose an orchid
. . .
empty my pockets on her table,
“Do I have enough?”
Taking only the pennies,
she says, “It’s just right.”

We want you to look at a bottle of perfume and remember—

remember the first time you felt “grown up”:

Christmas Snapshot
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
. . .
I am ready tonight
to open that present
dad bought at the store.
. . .
he lifts a small box
and a daisy’s in bloom;
inside is a bottle
of grown up perfume.

Conga drums remind Margarita Engle of Cuba, a Cuba she knew as a child, where she received a horse from her abuelita but never got to ride it. “[S]oldiers took the family farm, but they couldn’t take away my treasured memory of my grandma’s gift.” Can you imagine being given a horse, never getting to ride it—and yet still having joyful memories of simply receiving the gift?

My Own Horse
by Margarita Engle
. . .
My grandma’s red mare
has a red colt
for me!

Have you ever received a present that you really didn’t want (at first) but later came to treasure? (Charles Waters)

Have you ever received something that seemed to swirl with magic?

“Did our goldfish fly / over trees and roofs / in Santa’s frosted sled?” (Pat Mora)

What are your favorite holiday memories? What are your simplest wishes? Amy Ludwig VanDerwater writes about snow as a gift.

May your home be filled with surprises . . . like Lorie Ann Grover’s “Christmas tree Troll” who “Curls a smile / And reaches out to me”

Merry-Merry, Everyone!

Coax your own memories.

Cynsational Notes

Read about the whole PoetryTagTime series.
(also in the iTunes bookstore)

See Guest Post: Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong on P*TAG: an eBook for Teen Read Week; Author Interview: Sylvia Vardell on Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children; and Author Interview: Janet Wong on Dumpster Diver.
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