Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Cynsational Events: Albuquerque & Tucson

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations  

Cynsations is going on a brief hiatus while Cynthia Leitich Smith (that's me!) appears at book events in the upper southwest. In addition to a number of school visits, the public events are:

Alamosa Books Author Event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 7 in Albuquerque. Note: no worries if you can't be there right at 5 p.m.

Tuscon Festival of Books March 10 and March 11 in Tucson. Appearances include:
  • "Blood and Kisses: Paranormal Romance Panel" on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Education Building - Room 349;
  • "Cynthia Leitich Smith Solo Presentation" on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Teen and Author Meeting Place;
  • "Fantasy: What's New and Who's Reading Now? Panel" on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.  at Koffler - Room 204;
  • "The Business of Writing for Children and Teens: Surviving the Recession Panel on Saturday from 2:30 p.m. to 03:30 p.m. at Education Building - Room 349.
See schedule for signing times and more information.

Cynsational News

From Cynsations Canada reporter Lena Coakley: Last week, the Canadian Library Association announced the 2012 shortlists for their three major awards, the Young Adult Book Award, the Book of the Year for Children Award and the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award. The winners of these awards, and the Honour Books, will be announced prior to the National Canadian Library Association Conference and Trade Show. The awards will be presented at the conference in Ottawa, Ontario on May 31 at at the annual awards reception.

Austinites! Breaking news from Greg Leitich Smith. Peek: "The world premiere of the movie based on K.L. Going's Printz Honor winning novel, Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003), will be this Friday during the SXSW Film Festival." See details.

Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month: a celebration blog. Peek: "We are fortunate to have many resources for our children to learn about women's history, everything from fabulous biographical picture books about remarkable women from the past to historical novels, to fascinating history books written especially for young people. We hope this blog will help you identify some of these resources, learn about new books on women's history, and enjoy reflections by some distinguished authors in the field." Source: The Miss Rumphius Effect

Authors for Henryville: this fundraising effort is spearheaded by Julia Karr with help from fellow authors Mike Mullin, Ashley Hope Pérez, Christine Johnson, and Josie Bloss. Peek: "...working to raise funds for Henryville schools, which were destroyed by the March 2 tornadoes in Southern Indiana. All monies donated will either go to the rebuilding of the school libraries or to the Red Cross (it's the schools' choice!)Meanwhile... We're asking for your help! Pledge book(s) and/or book swag to be given away as one of the prizes in a drawing from the names of those who donate to the Henryville cause."

5 Chances to Win!
Awesome Prize Package!
Reminder! Enter to win ongoing Cynsations giveaways: five ARCs of Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood for YA fans and the Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart Prize Package for middle grade book lovers!

The Cynsational winner of Firelight by Sophie Jordan was Deena in New York, and the winner of Vanish, also by Sophie, was Jennifer in Wyoming. Both novels are published by Harper.

When Cynsations posts resume next week, look for more insights from new and established authors and other children's book professions, a variety of exciting giveaways, as well as the continuing Celebrating Poetry series by Kate Hosford and upcoming SCBWI Bologna 2012 series, coordinated by Angela Cerrito.

New Voice & Giveaway: Jessica Spotswood on Born Wicked

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Jessica Spotswood is the first-time author of Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicals, Book One)(Putnam, 2012). From the promotional copy: 

Our mother was a witch, too, but she hid it better.

I miss her.

To me, the magic feels like a curse. According to the Brothers, it's devil-sent. Women who can do magic they're either mad or wicked. So I will do everything in my power to protect myself and my sisters. Even if it means giving up my life and my true love.

Because if the Brothers discover our secret, we're destined for the asylum, or prison...or death. 

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?

Pre-contract, my revisions were pretty minimal. I cut the first chapter because my agent worried it was too slow a start (and then put it back in later at my editor’s request. Revisions are so subjective!). I added more of Cate’s internal thoughts to make it clear she wasn’t just trying to boss her sisters around out of spite. When the book went out on submission, I was hopeful; writing it had been very joyful, and I felt prouder of it than anything else I had written.

My edit letter was challenging; I had never received such detailed critique (or, to be fair, such detailed praise). My editor, Arianne Lewin at Putnam, is brilliant and generous. We changed the ending, which sort of fizzled out a bit. I rewrote the last fifty pages to open it up more for the sequel. To heighten the urgency, we added the notion that Cate had to declare an intention to marry in three months. I added two key scenes, refined character relationships, and added a great deal of physical description of the dresses and decor.

Jessica's office
My early drafts are pretty spare. One of my favorite notes from my editor was to “ruffle my corsets” more, and at the line-edit stage she left dozens of in-text notes asking me to describe the curtains or the dress or where or how Cate was standing.

At one point I despaired that I couldn’t think of anything else for anyone to do with their hands; I had completely run out of words.

I had a tight two-month deadline for the first edits because Penguin wanted to do a bound manuscript for a BEA sales dinner, and then I had another month to do second edits, and I was still working at my day job part-time.

Ari was lightning-fast at turning things around. It was incredibly challenging, and there were certainly tears and moments of overwhelm – but I also felt like I also had this amazing team to help me. It wasn’t just my book anymore; it was ours, and I could turn to them when I needed them.

I feel like I’ve improved as a writer, having been edited in such depth; my first draft of the sequel had its problems, but it also had loads more description instead of people floating about in empty space.

As far as advice for other writers – it’s so easy to get caught up in that little anxious thrum of I can’t I can’t. How am I ever going to fix this? or I suck so much. How didn’t I see this before?

It helped me to take my ego out of it.

When the doubt monsters strike, I may not trust myself – but I trust my editor and my critique partners. I trust the quiet voice of my character.

I try to tune into Cate instead of my own neurotic drama.

Could you tell us the story of "the call" or "the email" when you found out that your book had sold? How did you react? How did you celebrate?

More on Jessica
For context, it’s important to know that my first manuscript snagged me an awesome agent (Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich) but never sold. It was out with editors for a somewhat agonizing nine months.

During that time, I wrote Born Wicked (then entitled Thrice Blessed). It went out on February 15, 2011. A week later, I was at my then-day job working as a receptionist/admin assistant for the Catholic University Press. I wasn’t expecting news yet.

When Jim called to tell me that we had lots of interest and that Penguin had made a major pre-empt, I was floored.

Literally. I sat on the floor and giggled hysterically and called my mom.

I told my coworkers, who sent someone out to buy pink champagne and then toasted me. It was very sweet. And my boss let me leave early so I could talk on the phone to the two Penguin editors still in the running and make my decision.

That evening I drank the rest of the pink champagne and had Thai food with my husband and my best friend. Then I bought a Betsey Johnson dress (she’s my favorite designer) and threw a little champagne-and-cupcakes party for my best friends at a local restaurant the next weekend.

As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?

Well, women’s rights are a pretty shockingly recent concept. It was vital to me to write about strong, clever, independent girls, and a natural conflict arose when I put them in a society that hates and fears strong women. I wanted to give them choices and show the consequences of those choices.

Jessica's cat Monkey in her office
Cate and her sisters and friends have to fight to be the women they want to be against all of Society’s shoulds. First, the Brotherhood tells them that witchery is wrong; that witches are all sinful, selfish creatures. Then other witches tell Cate that she should embrace her magic and her role in the coming war to do her duty by other girls like her. She might be able to change the world – but at a terrible price.

I think most change comes with a price. Cate really struggles to figure out what she wants, to weigh her responsibilities against what might make her happy. I think contemporary girls can relate to that. I can.

I think the biggest evolution was that, in earlier drafts, the Brothers were villainous, and the witches were less scheming and threatening. I hope that it’s less black and white now.

When the witches were in power, they did do some terrible things; the population’s fear of them is not unfounded. That makes it more interesting for the Cahill girls’ internal struggles with their magic, too. 

Cynsational Notes & Giveaway

Jessica Spotswood grew up in a tiny one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania. Now she lives in a gentrifying hipster neighborhood in Washington, D.C. with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.

She's never happier than when she's immersed in a good story, and swoony kissing scenes are her favorite. Born Wicked is her debut novel. 

Enter to win one of five ARCs of Born Wicked! To enter, comment on this post and include an email address (formatted like: cynthia at cynthialeitichsmith dot com) or a link to an email address. Or email Cynthia directly with "Born Wicked" in the subject line. (If you're on LiveJournal, you may likewise enter via comment at  Cynsations LJ.) Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S. Deadline: midnight CST March 26. 

Check out the video for Born Wicked (Cahill Witch Chronicles, Book 1) by Jessica Spotswood (Putnam, 2012), and read an excerpt of the novel.

Monday, March 05, 2012

New Cynsations Reporter: Siobhan Curham on Daring to Dream

By Siobhan Curham
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

When I was younger I lived in a house crammed full of books. Both of my parents are avid readers, and I certainly inherited their bookworm gene. I loved escaping into the world of fiction, and the more I read, the more I wanted to create my own worlds of words for other people to enjoy.

Sadly, lack of confidence in my writing abilities meant that my writing dreams remained just dreams for many years.

But the thing about dreams is that they don’t go away that easily. Fictional characters would keep popping into my head like imaginary friends and life seemed full of plot ideas ripe for picking. So I would fill notebooks with these ideas. And then finally, when I was on maternity leave with my son, I decided to try actually writing a book.

I started with a nonfiction book, as it felt more within my comfort zone, but when that was published in 2000, I finally had the confidence to have a go at writing a novel for adults. To my shock and delight this novel went on to get me a three-book deal with a major U.K. publisher, and I felt as if my dream of becoming a successful author had finally been accomplished.

But it wasn’t that straightforward. After disappointing sales for my third novel, I was dropped by my publisher. It’s funny how something that can feel like the end of the world at the time can end up being one of the best things to have happened to you with the benefit of hindsight.

At Paris Book Fair.

Being dropped by my publisher led me to start running workshops and coaching other writers. And this led to me becoming a writer in residence at a local high school. Teaching writing to students reminded me of the passion I used to have for books and writing when I was younger. I loved the enthusiasm and energy with which teenagers would approach their writing, and it was infectious.

Before long, I had an idea for a YA novel and writing it was nothing at all like writing my adult fiction. Whereas writing for adults had felt laborious at times, writing about teenagers felt like second nature. Clearly I am still very much a fourteen-year-old at heart! The book flowed, and creatively it was the most enjoyable experience of my writing career.

Literally, the day I finished the novel I got an email from a friend saying that a U.K. children’s publisher was actively seeking new writers. I quickly emailed the first three chapters off to the commissioning editor, and she replied immediately asking to see the rest of it.

I was offered a two-book deal within a couple of weeks. But before I’d signed the contract the publisher started back-tracking on what they’d originally offered me financially. Still feeling jaded from my experience with my previous publisher, I withdrew the book. And then I made a decision that would go on to change my writing career beyond recognition – I decided to self-publish.

I self-published Dear Dylan in April 2010 and, thanks to some wonderful reviews on YA blogging sites, it started to create a bit of an online buzz. Then one day at work I read about a U.K. book award called Young Minds that were looking for entries. I knew that most national awards didn’t accept self-published books but I figured I had nothing to lose, so I posted them a copy.

I was delighted when I heard that it had been accepted into the competition. And even more delighted when it was long-listed. That to me felt as good as winning. So I was absolutely ecstatic when it made it to the shortlist of six. All the other books on the list were from major publishers, so it was a massive boost to my confidence.

And then, in a fairytale ending, Dear Dylan actually won the Young Minds Book Award.

The whole experience was a fantastic lesson in never giving up on your dreams – and how if one path becomes blocked you should simply find another. Winning the award has transformed my writing career. Dear Dylan went to auction in the U.K., and I ended up with two-book deals in the U.K., France and Germany. It is being published by Egmont U.K. this April, with my second YA novel, Finding Cherokee Brown being published in April 2013.

I am now writing a YA series with a TV tie-in, which is massively exciting, and three days a week I work as an editorial consultant for a London-based company, helping bring younger children’s books to life. It feels wonderful to have come full circle, from a book-loving kid to a creator of children’s fiction.

Finally, I can say that my dream really has come true.

Max editing.

Cynsational Notes

Siobhan Curham lives in a village just outside of London with her teenage son – who is mad about football, and her rescue dog, Max – who has a phobia of footballs!

She dreams of one day living in America, which is where her grandma was from, and she goes to visit her family there every chance she can.

Siobhan contributes news and interviews from the children's-YA creative, literature and publishing community in the U.K.

DearEditor.com Revision Week Interview & Picture Book/Partial Manuscript Edit Giveaway

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations 

Revision Week: Cynthia Leitich Smith by Deborah Halverson from DearEditor.com. Peek: "I have this unshakable belief that the answers to every story are somewhere in those early drafts. We just have to read our own writing carefully enough to find them."

Manuscript Edit Giveaway

See the link for the whole scoop on entering to win today's giveaway of a manuscript edit (first chapter or whole picture book) and Saturday's grand prize, a full manuscript edit from DearEditor. Deadline: midnight PST tonight, March 5. Eligibility note: any category (fiction or non-fiction), published for young readers or grown-ups.

Cynsational Notes

Revision Week at DearEditor.com, from March 4 to March 10, features eight prolific, bestselling, award-winning authors for a week of revision tips, insights, and stories from the trenches. Learn from writers who turn first drafts into lauded books every day--and enter the daily drawings for Free Partial Edits and the grand prize Full Manuscript Edit giveaway. Featured authors: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kathleen Krull, R.L. LaFevers, Nathan Bransford, Mark A. Clements, and Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, and Theo Baker. Check it out at DearEditor.com.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Celebrating Poetry: Sylvia Vardell on Teaching, Awards, Trends, Challenges & New Releases

By Kate Hosford
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Sylvia Vardell is a professor at Texas Woman's University. She also is the author of Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library (ALA, 2006), Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children's Poets (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), and Children's Literature in Action: A Librarians Guide (Libraries Unlimited, 2008). In addition, she edits for Librarians' Choice.

Sylvia is a avid reader, movie lover, and zealous traveler.

As a writer, a professor of library science, a blogger and an anthologist, you have devoted yourself to the celebration and promotion of poetry for young people. What role did poetry play in your own childhood? How did that interest continue to develop?

My parents were new immigrants from Germany, so German was my first language. Rhymes and poems helped me to learn—and enjoy—my new language, English. I felt tuned in to the music of language—how words sounded in German and English—and I still enjoy the sound qualities of poetry, in particular.

In school, I enjoyed hearing poetry read aloud by teachers and librarians (again, that pleasure in the spoken word), but I didn’t seek it out to read in print, although I was an avid reader.

I found an outlet in writing poetry in my angst-filled teen years, and in college, I had a knack for analyzing poetry. (I was good at identifying the appropriate symbolism!)

I taught sixth grade in the late 1970s and shared all kinds of books with my students. Shel Silverstein was a new author, and I saw firsthand what a huge hit his work was with my students. That led me deep into exploring contemporary poetry for kids—and I haven’t quit since!

What are some of the new and innovative ways in which librarians and teachers are promoting poetry? 

Teachers and librarians who love poetry have long been creative in getting kids excited about poetry—from creating classroom poetry cafés, complete with tablecloths and bongos, to holding open mike readings, to filling school hallways with favorite poem displays, to starting the school day with a school-wide poem to linking poetry across the curriculum.

And now with technology tools, they’re hosting guest poets via Skype, creating digital trailers to promote poetry books, using blogs to encourage student responses to poetry, etc.

One of the things I find especially gratifying is how educators now promote a more multidimensional approach to poetry—listening to it, performing it, filming it, as well as reading and writing it.

Are there any poetry collections, anthologies or novels in verse that you are particularly excited about in 2012?

I’m excited at the abundance of titles I’ve seen scheduled for publication in 2012—over 50 so far.

Some of my favorite poets have new books coming out. They include Douglas Florian, Marilyn Singer, J. Patrick Lewis, Margarita Engle, David Harrison, Helen Frost, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Jane Yolen, and even Jack Prelutsky.

My friend and collaborator Janet Wong has a very timely new book of election year poems, Declaration of Interdependence: Poems on Liberty (CreateSpace, 2012)!

I’m looking forward to not one, but two collections focused on featuring poems for performance since that’s one of my favorite angles on poetry: Mary Ann Hoberman (Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart, illustrated by Michael Emberley (Little, Brown, April 2012)) and Caroline Kennedy (Poems to Learn by Heart, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Hyperion, March 2012)).

And I’m always especially to read the work of new and up-and-coming poets and anthologists, so I’m excited to get my hands on: Jill Corcoran’s collection, Dare to Dream…Change the World (Kane Miller, fall 2012), Carol-Ann Hoyte’s and Heidi Bee Roemer’s anthology with poets from around the world, And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester (Friesens Press, 2012), and Tim McLaughlin’s book of poetry by young people themselves, Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky; Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School, illustrated by S.D. Nelson (Abrams, April 2012).

Are there any trends in poetry that we should look for this year?

Last year was a bumper crop for novels in verse with some amazing works by first-time authors—like Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again (HarperCollins, 2011), the National Book Award winner.

I’m seeing more interesting verse novels on this year’s lists, and I’m looking forward to checking them out.

I hear Leslea Newman’s October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard (Candlewick, 2012) is very powerful, and I am always blown away by Stephanie Hemphill’s work (look for Sisters of Glass (Knopf, March 27, 2012)).

I’m also so excited to see more multicultural poetry on the docket, including bilingual works by Jorge Luján and Jorge Argueta.

You have worked hard to raise the public’s awareness of poetry awards. Why are these awards so important, and what can the reading public do to support them?

Yes, I do believe promoting the awards is critical primarily because we work in such an award-conscious culture. Awards help people notice poetry.

The downside is that awards by their very nature recognize only a few books, so many wonderful works of poetry don’t get the attention they deserve. That’s one reason that I try to promote lists, rather than single titles alone, to give a taste of the poetry diversity that is possible and available.

I would love it if the reading public would take notice of the poetry awards, buy multiple copies of each winner and honor book, and then hold their own “mock” awards to get kids (and families) reading and talking about even more poetry.

Could you talk a bit about the challenges that both new and established poets face at this time, both in terms of getting published and getting their poetry into the hands of readers?

Yes, there are so many challenges in poetry publishing—getting it accepted and published to begin with, then getting the book sold and promoted, too. Most poets are now heavily involved in the “after” part, using web sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get the word out about their books. And it’s still a tough sell in a fiction-centric world!

As the writer Robert Graves noted, “There’s no money in poetry, but there’s no poetry in money either.”

Digital publishing offers promising opportunities for new writers and my collaborator, Janet Wong (herself a poet) and I have tried our hands at that. We published three e-book anthologies of poems by some of the biggest names in poetry for children (PoetryTagTime for kids, P*TAG for teens, and Gift Tag, holiday poems for all ages).

If it’s any consolation, poetry has the longest “shelf life” of all the genres, in my opinion. It has staying power. Just look at Mother Goose (1695), “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (1806), or even “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout/Would not take the garbage out” by Shel Silverstein (1974).

Poetry has legs. We just need to be sure not to cut it off at the knees by our short-sightedness!

Cynsational Notes

More on Kate Hosford
Kate Hosford grew up in Waitsfield, Vermont, and graduated from Amherst College in 1988. She was happy to return to her home state to attend Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults in 2011.

Before becoming a writer, Kate worked as a foster care worker, a teacher, and an illustrator.

Kate is publishing three picture books with Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group: Big Bouffant (spring, 2011), its sequel, Big Birthday (spring 2012), and Infinity and Me (fall, 2012). She loves writing picture books, children's poetry and middle grade novels.

She has lived in India, Germany and Hong Kong, but presently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two sons.

Revision Week at DearEditor.com

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations 

Revision Week at DearEditor.com, from March 4 to March 10, features eight prolific, bestselling, award-winning authors for a week of revision tips, insights, and stories from the trenches.

Learn from writers who turn first drafts into lauded books every day--and enter the daily drawings for Free Partial Edits and the grand prize Full Manuscript Edit giveaway.

Featured authors: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kathleen Krull, R.L. LaFevers, Nathan Bransford, Mark A. Clements, and Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver, and Theo Baker.

Check it out at DearEditor.com.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...