Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Trailer: Mary's Song by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

Compiled by Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Mary's Song by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (Eerdman's, 2012). From the promotional copy:

On that first Christmas night, the Earth bursts with praise at the Savior's birth. Donkeys bray, sheep bleat, horses neigh, and shepherds come from nearby fields. 

But Mary simply wants to be alone with her sweet babe. When quiet finally falls, Mary cradles her son and sings her mother-song.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Cynsational News & Giveaways

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Diversity and Difference in YA from Megan Crewe. Peek: "If you flesh out all your characters and avoid making one characteristic the entirety of that character’s 'personality,' you’re a lot less likely to end up with a stereotype." See also Why We Need Diversity in YA Fiction from Cheryl Rainfield.

A Visit to Chronicle Books by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Note: a photo report.

A Corollary to NaNoWriMo, or, Why I'm Prouder of 600 Words than 10,000 from Beth Revis. Peek: "I was getting close to 10k words. And then, on Day 5, I realized: that was the wrong 10k words. So I deleted them all." Source: Gwenda Bond.

How to Critique and Still Have Friends by Mary Ann Rodman from Teaching Authors. Peek: "At the start of a session I remind the writer that he is already a writer; working together, he will become a better writer."

How to Host an Author, From an Author: a Q&A with Cynthia Leitich Smith from The Outreach Librarian. Peek: "Is there a threatened closing, a recent death in the faculty/student body—really anything that might impact our choice of words and/or demeanor?"

YA Bookstore Opens Within General Bookstore in St. Paul from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Mayer, a librarian with the St. Paul public school system, previously worked for three different Twin Cities bookstores, including Micawber’s, where he wrote the children’s portion of the store newsletter. He also has served on the board of the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature."

Top 10 Historical Picture Books by Sherry York from PaperTigers.Blog. Peek: "These titles represent ten of my picks of authentic historical picture books.  They all present U.S. history from points of view not often seen in 'mainstream' lists."

Reminder! Kid-Lit Cares: Superstorm Sandy Relief Auction from Kate Messner. Peek: " online talent auction to benefit the Red Cross relief effort for Sandy. Agents, editors, authors, and illustrators have donated various services to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with donations being made directly to the Red Cross disaster relief fund." Note: round 2 kicks off Nov. 12 from Joanne Levy. See also Kid Lit Community Giving Back to Benefit Red Cross (auction items in sidebar) from Jen Malone Writes.

Surviving Sandy: Stories from the Publishing World by Diane Roback from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "A common refrain heard during the party: if you have to be stranded somewhere, you could do much worse than Austin."

Outlining: Write with the End in Mind by Yahong Chi from Project Mayhem: The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers. Peek: "...saves you from wandering through your middle in one direction, only to realize that your story actually ends up over there -- and thereby rendering your first 10,000 words useless."

Do YA Authors, Editors & Librarians Promote the Idea that Books Can Do Good, But Reject the Idea that They Can Do Harm? by Daniel Nayeri from CBC Diversity. Peek: "...any workshop or football coach will tell you, don't accept the compliments if you won't believe the criticism."

Learn about Rain Is Not My Indian Name.
"Clean" Reads for Multicultural YA Girls by Stacy Whitman from Stacy Whitman's Grimoire. Peek: "Feel free to suggest titles that might not be shelved in a church library only if they’re borderline, i.e., something my friend my suggest the girls look up on an individual basis if she feels they’re ready for them)." Note: post updated; see list at Pinterest.

How to Handle Picture Book Back Matter During Submission by Deborah Halverson from Peek: "That supporting material is a component of your project, which should be considered in full."

Author Insight: Writing Roadblocks from Wastepaper Prose. Peek: "What's the biggest consistent obstacle in your writing process? How do you overcome it?"

Transformational Journeys: Working with Archetypes by Robin LaFevers from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "The transformative part comes in when we take that grief or bitterness or suffering and let it be the catalyst that impels us to a new state of being; that instead of experiencing our emotions as random stepping stones, we allow ourselves to see the path that is forming at our feet and dare to take it, follow it to a new awareness."

Looking for more publishing news and resources? Try The Publishing Pulse from QueryTracker.netBlog.

Cynsational Giveaways

The winner of Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey is Selena in Wisconsin.

See also YA Book Releases in Stores 11/10-11/17 and four-book giveaway from Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing.

This Week at Cynsations

Library Jubilee

This week's event highlight was Library Jubilee: The Quest for Imagination in Waco, Texas!

Greg & Cyn, photo by Joy Preble
Loved the tie-in decorations to the fantasy theme!
Dear Teen Me panel with E. Kristin Anderson, K.A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson, P.J. Hoover & Mari Mancusi
"Imagine New World" panel with Nikki Loftin, Lynne Kelly & Shana Burg
More Personally

This week, I unveiled the cover to Feral Nights (Book One in the Feral series)(Candlewick, 2013). Thank you to the remarkable design team at Candlewick Press for a wonderful job (it beckons, don't you think?), and thanks to all who've passed on and cheered the cover! Your support means so much! (Don't miss the ARC giveaway!)

Personal Links:

Cynsational Events

Shelley Ann Jackson and Jeff Crosby will speak on Rhythmic Syncopation at 10 a.m. Nov. 10 at BookPeople in Austin in conjunction with Austin SCBWI. Following the meeting (at 11 a.m.), check out the open critique group meeting on the third floor or basic Photoshop assistance with Marsha Riti in the first-floor coffee shop.

Central Texans, don't miss the Dear Teen Me Launch Party at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at The BookSpot in Round Rock.

Cynthia Leitich Smith will sign from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 1 at The BookSpot in Round Rock.

2013 Novel Writing Retreat for Middle Grade and Young Adult Writers will be March 15 to March 17 at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Study with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Lauren Myracle and Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Guest Post: Janet S. Fox on Core Emotions and Writing from the Heart

By Janet S. Fox
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Janet being "hooded" by VCFA faculty member Julie Larios
When I was a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts I had the privilege of listening to Marion Dane Bauer’s retirement lecture. She said she’d discovered that a core emotion formed in her childhood resided at the heart of all her stories. In her case, abandonment was her core emotion; every one of her stories addressed the fear of abandonment or rescue from abandonment.

I’ve thought about this lecture a lot, thinking through and around the issue of my own core emotion.

Our best writing comes when we write from the heart: when we open our souls and expose our deepest feelings – that’s when we give our readers the freedom to feel empathy and catharsis and to revel in insight.

So what, I’ve asked myself (going on three years), what is my core emotion?

Janet (right) with her dad and sister.
My own childhood was somewhat idyllic.

My favorite childhood reading (like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series) didn’t offer immediate hints.

Not so long ago, as I was wrapping up the final edits of my new release, Sirens (Speak/Penguin, 2012), I found it.

No, I’m not going to just come out and tell you. But here are some hints.

When I was young my parents sent me to dancing school. I learned to dance, but mostly I learned how to be a wallflower. It wasn’t until late in high school when I learned to let go and dance.

I was struck during the years we lived in Texas when younger people (particularly younger men) addressed me politely as “ma’am.” I tried to teach it to my son; it was consummate verbal charm. Why, then, did it grate on my nerves?

I’ve built four houses over my lifetime (including designing three), so I know a thing or two about building. Once, I deselected a general contractor who insisted that I knew nothing about construction and derisively called me the “little lady.”

Are you getting a picture here?

Even if you are, what the heck does this have to do with writing?

My core emotion, I’ve come to realize, revolves around empowerment. It particularly centers on the power – or the powerlessness – of girls and women.

Through most of human history, and throughout much of the world today, women have served a subordinate function to the roles of men. Abused, subjugated, prevented from marrying for love, prevented from voting, forced to bear children, forced out of education – girls and women were and are often powerless to change their condition. Even when society elevated women to polite deference (“ma’am”) they were bound in strangling corsets and married off.

Somewhere along the way - and I credit my parents here, as well as Lucy Pevensie, who did provide an example after all – I was given to know that I had the power to make my own choices.

But also somewhere along the way I was given the feeling that I didn’t really have that power except by accident of birth.

Now we get to writing. I give all of my characters, male or female, young or old, the choice to become powerful. Not all of us in life have the chance to grasp power; but when we do we all have the choice. By letting my characters understand that they can take charge of their particular circumstance I release my own heartfelt belief that we should all have that choice, and that the action of reaching out and taking control is brave, often dangerous, but also extraordinary.

That’s the heart of my matter.

Cynsational Notes

Visit Janet's blog and Pinterest.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

New Voice & Giveaway: Kim Baker on Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Kim Baker is the first-time author of Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School (Roaring Brook, 2012)(excerpt). From the promotional copy:

This is the story of The League of Picklemakers

Ben: who began it all by sneaking in one night and filling homeroom with ball-pit balls.

Frank: who figured out that an official club, say a pickle-making club, could receive funding from the PTA.

Oliver: Who once convinced half of the class that his real parents had found him and he was going to live in a submarine.

Bean: Who wasn't exactly invited, but her parents own a costume shop, which comes in handy if you want to dress up like a giant squirrel and try to scare people at the zoo. 

Together, they are an unstoppable prank-pulling force, and Fountain Point Middle School will never be the same.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

Visit Kim Baker
I don’t think anything influenced the formation of Pickle more than thinking about what the younger me would want from a story.

I was a voracious reader as a kid. I always have been, but during the "middle grade" years I read everything I could— from classics like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Frederick A. Stokes, 1911) and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Harper, 1952) to tons of series and mass-market stuff, with everything in-between.

My parents were really great about providing books and letting me have pretty free reign with a library card.

My elementary school librarian, Mrs. Schuster, recognized me as a book lover and gave me a "job" helping out in the school library after school while my mom was working. She would give me tasks around the library like tidying up and shelving, and we'd talk about books. Having that kind of "after hours" access to the stacks and a children’s book expert really helped me find my tastes as a reader.

There were some rough patches in that phase of my life, and I tended to steer toward books with fun and irreverence. I developed an early appreciation for humor. I was a semi-inadvertent troublemaker and so are the characters in Pickle. I wanted to make a story about goodhearted troublemakers, more mischievous than mean-spirited. The secret prank club starts out as a creative way to have fun, but when a rogue prank threatens their new alliance they use their unorthodox skills to push back.

Hopefully, it’s subtle, but there’s an underlying theme of standing up for individuality. As a young reader, anytime the kids in the story became empowered somehow, it was a plus. And if they beat an unfair system? It blew my mind.

I think I would have really been drawn to a book like Pickle as a young reader. And apart from the humor and shenanigans, I would’ve been really excited about a Mexican-American protagonist.

Kim's workspace
There was, and is, a huge void of books with Latino characters. Last year, Mitali Perkins pointed out that Latinos make up over 16% of the U.S. Population, but less than 2% of kid/YA books are written by Latinos or about Latino characters. That’s crazy!

I’m a mash-up of a Mexican-American Californian mom and an Anglo-Texan dad. I grew up in Wyoming and we’d spend summers in urban Los Angeles with my mom’s side of the family.

As a young reader, I could find books on practically anything in the library, except one that reflected aspects of my cultural identity. I tried to create something that my kid self would’ve been really excited to find on the library shelf: diverse characters in a story filled with silliness, friends, covert operations, creativity, and protest. That fits younger me down to the core. It pretty much sums me up presently as well.

As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you deal with the pervasiveness of rapidly changing technologies? Did you worry about dating your manuscript? Did you worry about it seeming inauthentic if you didn't address these factors? Why or why not?

It was tricky, because I wanted the characters to use technology in their exploits, but I was worried about dating the story. I didn’t include any gadgetry beyond basic computers for two reasons. Electronics are the best example of how quickly technology can change. Just look at the shift from push-button style cell phones to smart phones over the last couple of years. If I’d mentioned the old style of texting that was more common while I was writing Pickle, it would be out of date by now. And secondly, my characters are middle schoolers from mostly working class families. They probably wouldn’t be that wired into the newest tools.

But, I wanted my characters to use the Internet to their advantage and create a hole in the wall where the story ends and the real world starts. The group creates a website for their pickle-making club, Pickles Forever. But like the club itself, it’s a front. If you click on the fizzy pickle soup recipe and then the word “simmer” there will be a new page with a password prompt. Enter “cheese” and it opens up another website with information and pranks for the P.T.A. (Prank and Trick Association) “maintained” by the characters. Kids can log their own pranks or comment on others. There’s a map feature to mark a new chapter and a decoder wheel for encrypted messages.

Kim's workspace
We tried to think of fun things kids could do while staying within the COPPA regulations (not collecting any identifying information on minors). The good thing about the website is that it can be adapted as times change. My husband is a programmer, so that definitely helps.

One of the characters has a website, Cat vs. Dude, that she works on during the story.

Kids like going out of the book to see evidence of the characters online. Technology is changing all the time, but websites are going to be around longer than other aspects.

It’s just another way of breaking down the fourth wall and looking at adapting our storytelling with new outlets. I think there’s a lot of potential for multi-media storytelling by working technology into the story in an organic way that expands beyond the page.

Cynsational Notes

Great Examples of Humor in Kid Lit & YA: a bibliography compiled by Kim Baker. Organized by format and age-market category.

Cynsational Giveaway

Enter to win one of three copies of Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker (Roaring Brook, 2012). Author sponsored. Eligibility: international.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the cover for Feral Nights (Book One in the Feral series) by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 2012). From the promotional copy:

Fans of the Tantalize quartet will thrill to see werepossum Clyde and other favorite secondary characters — plus all-new ones — take to the fore in book one of an all-new series.

When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation.

Meanwhile, werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis.

When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species. The island harbors a grim secret and were-predator and were-prey must join forces in a fight to escape alive. 

Fans of best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith Tantalize quartet will thrill to see favorite sidekick characters--together with all-new ones--take to the fore in this wry, high-action entry in an exciting new series.

Enter to win an advanced reader copy of Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, Feb. 2012). Publisher sponsored. Eligibility: U.S.

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Monday, November 05, 2012

New Voice: E. Kristin Anderson on Dear Teen Me

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

E. Kristin Anderson is the author of Dear Teen Me, co-authored by Miranda Kenneally (Zest, 2012). From the promotional copy:

Dear Teen Me includes advice from over 70 YA authors to their teenage selves. The letters cover a wide range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium.

So pick a page, and find out which of your favorite authors had a really bad first kiss? Who found true love at 18? Who wishes he’d had more fun in high school instead of studying so hard? Some authors write diary entries, some write letters, and a few graphic novelists turn their stories into visual art.

And whether you hang out with the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the loners, the class presidents, the delinquents, the jocks, or the nerds, you’ll find friends–and a lot of familiar faces–in the course of Dear Teen Me.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you're debuting this year?

You know, this is a funny question for me. And I think that’s because my first reaction is, well, I was a precocious reader who “outgrew” the small YA section (it was so tiny when I was young – so glad it’s huge now!) and moved on from Judy Blume, Gary Paulsen, and Lois Duncan to adult fantasy authors like Piers Anthony before giving up reading altogether in high school because I couldn’t keep up with the assignments.

But then I remembered that one of my favorite books in sixth grade was Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic. It’s a book that blew my world wide open.Some people refer to it as the modern Anne Frank, and it’s an apt comparison, since Zlata’s Diary is the diary of a young girl in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

I identified with her. And all I wanted to read after that was diaries. There weren’t a lot, and for the rest of sixth grade, I mostly read Lurlene McDaniel books about kids dealing with illness and other “real life” issues.

So maybe it’s some strange twist of fate that my first book isn’t one of the novels I’ve written (and, fingers crossed, ones you’ll be able to find next to Dear Teen Me on a shelf one day soon), but a collection of true stories about real life issues.

I wasn’t thinking of Zlata when I started the blog or even when Miranda Kenneally and I began putting together the book. But I’m certainly thinking of her now. And I really hope that teens read some of the true stories in Dear Teen Me and think “that’s like me” or “that could be someone I know” or “I feel less alone” or “I feel like a world citizen today.”

As a nonfiction writer, what first inspired you to take on your topic? What about it fascinated you? Why did you want to offer more information about it to young readers?

Teen E. Kristin in pink pleather pants!
In 2010, I went to a Hanson concert with my boyfriend. It was the first time I’d seen Hanson, and I spent most of my teenage years idolizing the band. They were my age, they were living their dream as artists and musicians, and I loved their music. I wanted so badly to see them live, but when I was in high school, they never toured close enough to Maine (where I grew up) for me to see them.

So when I was at the concert, I kept thinking about my teen self, and how much she would have loved to be there. I went home and wrote an epically long post on my blog, a letter to my teen self, about the concert, and how much Hanson meant to us then and how it still was something we would love as an adult.

I was sitting at a café with P.J. Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson, and K.A. Holt when I was struck with the idea that this would make a great blog. I emailed about 50 authors I knew, figuring maybe half of them would be interested. I was overwhelmed by the yesses.

And Miranda offered to help, which was amazing, because I was in desperate need of it.

When we put together the blog, we thought it was great to have a space for authors to reach out to teens in this entertaining but also heartwarming way. I think a lot of adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager – and why wouldn’t they? Being a teen is really, really hard!

But authors – YA authors especially – remember those years viscerally. And was (and still is) a space where teens can come and find adults who remember and care.

The fact that a book came of it is still surprising and exciting for me. I love that teens will be able to hold these letters in their hands, and pass them around, and share the issues that were just as real in the '70s, '80s, and '90s as they are now. It’s been fascinating for us to see how no matter how different the hair and the clothes and the cars are, the insecurities, the bad days, and the big issues have remained the same.

How did you go about identifying your editor? Did you meet him/her at a conference? Did you read an interview with him/her? Were you impressed by books he/she has edited?

I’m going to talk about my publisher, Hallie Warshaw. She wasn’t the editor of the book, but she had a huge impact on how the book looks and feels, the concepts we ran with, and ultimately, the fact that it even exists.

I met Hallie at ALA Annual in New Orleans in 2011. I was approaching the Zest/HMH booth about possibly getting a few Dear Teen Me letters from her authors for the website.

Hallie saw my business card and asked me about it and the website. And after I explained the concept, she said it would make a great book, gave me her card, and told me to get in touch.

I immediately texted Miranda, my co-editor, who is represented by Sara Megibow. And the more we all talked with Hallie, the more we knew this was the best place for a Dear Teen Me anthology.

I think one thing that really struck me was the beauty of Zest’s books. If you haven’t picked one up yet, you should! Most of their books have full-color interiors, innovative design work, and a really fun feel. Dear Teen Me is as much about nostalgia as it is about teen issues, and I loved the idea of having a fun book that could actually include our embarrassing teen photos, and the possibility of having a few extras – like the “sidebars” throughout the book featuring answers to questions like “What was your first job?” and “What was your most embarrassing moment?”

Also, Hallie and I talked a lot at ALA and in other meetings about how there isn’t a whole lot of nonfiction out there for teens. It’s getting better, but we’re not there yet. And Zest is doing a fabulous job of filling that niche with smart, funny, beautiful, important books.

I’m proud to be a part of the extended Zest family!

Who has been your most influential writing/art teacher or mentor and why?

I have been really fortunate to have a number of amazing writers in my life, but I think the one person that truly took me to that next level is Jessica Lee Anderson.

Emily (with Jessica) mugs for the camera, photo by K.A. Holt
We met when I was a bookseller helping out at an SCBWI event. We were introduced by Madeline Smoot, publisher at CBAY books, who went to Hollins University with Jessica. We had an immediate connection (it was totally kismet!) and agreed to start meeting for critique.

 At the time, I was still working on finishing my first novel, and she was working on a middle grade adventure.

When we traded manuscripts, I was really apprehensive. Jessica was a pro, she had actual books out, and she was trusting me with a work in progress.

I told her that I didn’t know how much I could offer her as an unpublished writer. And she told me that it didn’t matter, because she knew how much I read, and the best critique partners are good readers. (She heard this from Linda Sue Park at an SCBWI conference, and it’s true!)

We’ve since learned so much from each other – about writing, about life, about the publishing industry. She’s always been amazingly encouraging, and never for a minute doubted that I’d “make it.” I love having Jessica not only as a critique partner and mentor but as a friend. She’s truly a blessing! (And she’s also on the cover of Dear Teen Me – see if you can spot her!)

Follow the Dear Teen Me blog tour for more information, contest & giveaways.

Cynsational Notes

Dear Teen Me contributors include Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Guest Interview & Giveaway: Author Chris Howard & Scholastic Editor Mallory Kass on Rootless

By Chris Howard & Mallory Kass
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

CHRIS: If there's one person who's read Rootless almost as many times as I have, it's my brilliant editor, Mallory Kass of Scholastic Press. 

But Mallory didn't just help make Rootless the best it could be, she also guided me along the "publication path", answering my questions and advocating on my behalf. Whether it was the way the book reads, the cover design, the title itself, Mallory was involved every step of the way. 

To me, one of the greatest things about Mallory is that she's "chill" I'm pretty laid-back a lot of the time, but when it comes to something like copy-editing (to comma, or not to comma!), I can start going crazy over every tiny thing. Mallory is the calm in the storm, and makes for a great partner in crime. 

The best thing of all about working with Mallory? 

When we started to work on Rootless, she said her job was to make sure readers would most clearly experience my vision of the novel. Yeah! That's Mallory Kass, for you! And here she is for our Book Blog Tour Exclusive Q&A!

CHRIS: We first met at the Big Sur Writing Workshop, and you were one of the first people to ever read the first chapter of Rootless. What was it that made you want to read more?

MALLORY: As an editor, I’m drawn to manuscripts with beautiful writing and sophisticated world-building. Rootless (then called "The Tree Catcher") had all this on page 1. That great first line, “They figured me too young for a tree builder,” sucked me right into Banyan’s world. I immediately wanted to know: why does this guy need to build trees? Who is he working for?

Then, in addition to that initial burst of curiosity, I felt myself swept away by the elegance of your prose. The description of the tree tattoo juxtaposes the harsh reality of Banyan’s life so well, and gave me an immediate sense of his craving for beauty—one of the defining forces in the novel.

CHRIS: I was surprised during the editing process that Rootless actually got longer, rather than shorter. In fact, it kept getting longer and longer, and then we started cutting some things out! Is that typical? Do you usually encourage authors to expand on ideas and characters, before you start looking for places to trim down? 

MALLORY: It depends on the manuscript. Because you’re such a thoughtful, economic writer, there really wasn’t much in the first draft that felt superfluous.

In other situations, it’s sometimes necessary to make cuts right away, to get at the heart of the story, and then think about where you want to build it out.

CHRIS: Do you have a favorite character in Rootless? Which one would you most like to share a bag of popcorn with?

MALLORY: Well, I adore Banyan, of course. But I think I’d probably choose to hang out with Alpha. Maybe she could show me the best way to rock a mohawk!

CHRIS: What's your favorite thing about being an editor? And what do you think people would find most surprising about a day in the life of Mallory Kass?

On nice days, Chris loves to write in his garden.
MALLORY: One of my favorite things about being an editor is that feeling I mentioned above, when I read the first few pages of a manuscript and feel myself being pulled into another world as the beauty of the writing casts its spell.

I also love having the chance to be involved in every stage of the process, from working with authors, brainstorming with designers, coordinating with marketing, publicity, and sales, and then having the joy of seeing readers connect with the book just like I did!

I’m always a little surprised by how much fun I manage to have at the office! I have the privilege of working with an incredible group of intelligent, passionate people, and even though we’re all super busy, the atmosphere is always creative and playful.

CHRIS: What are some of your thoughts on the digital revolution happening in publishing? What do you think it means for authors, and publishers? And do you think physical books might disappear, as they have in Banyan's world?

MALLORY: It’s a very exciting time to be in publishing! Scholastic has always been committed to providing fantastic stories for kids and teens, and we’re going to continue to that in whatever way works best for our readers, their parents, teachers, and librarians!

CHRIS: There was one line near the end of revisions, where you said, "what if Banyan said this ____?" and it was so perfectly in character, I just stuck the line right in there! If something terrible happened to me before I finished the trilogy, would you consider wrapping it up? No pressure or anything.

MALLORY: Oh, goodness. I’m flattered by your faith in me, but I don’t think anyone could bring Banyan, Alpha, Zee, Crow and the rest of your incredibly complex characters to life like you did. I think for the sake of your fans, you’ll just have to be very careful about looking both ways when you cross the street!

CHRIS: And now, the tables get turned, and it's Mallory's turn to ask me questions!

MALLORY: What surprised you the most about the editorial process?

Brainstorming at Annapurna Basecamp in the Himalayas
CHRIS: Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, but the first time I visited the Scholastic offices in New York, I sort of imagined things being a bit stuffy and "strictly business", but everyone was so passionate about their work and super busy, while being super friendly and fun at the same time. I felt like my book was way more than just a "product", and that was a great feeling.

Because when you see this personal story you wrote become "eligible for free shipping" and things, it's a strange feeling.

But then you meet people like the team at Scholastic, or booksellers, or readers, and you remember that people are in this world because of the magic of books.

MALLORY: If you could spend three months living and writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

CHRIS: Anywhere there was no internet, no phone service, and plenty of trees to walk around in! How about Big Sur, California? Then I'd be by the ocean, too. And I could see Magnus Toren who runs the Henry Miller Memorial Library. He's awesome!

MALLORY: In one my favorite recent movies, "Midnight in Paris," the main character goes back in time and asks Hemingway to read his manuscript. If you could time travel, which writer would you ask to critique a novel you’re still working on?

CHRIS: I loved that movie, too! And it'd be tough to beat Hemingway, right? But I'm going with Mark Twain. I actually think Banyan and Huck Finn would get along well, and I think I'd have a blast hanging out with Mr. Twain.

MALLORY: What’s the strangest habit you developed while writing?

CHRIS: The way I type is not something you would call normal It's like my own weird version of hunting and pecking.

Camper van has solar panels to keep the laptop juiced.
MALLORY: Which would you least want to write a complete novel without A) music B) caffeine C) a computer?

CHRIS: A good story is better than caffeine, right? And as much as I love music, I always write in silence. So… I'm going with a computer, as soulless as that sounds!

To be honest, my penmanship is so bad that even I can't read it, so I really need that computer, I guess.

MALLORY: Which celebrity would you be most excited to have at a reading of Rootless? 

CHRIS: I'm going with Bob Dylan. I love that guy. He's amazing, and a big inspiration. His lyricism has had a big influence on my writing, and the idea of him hearing some of my prose would be too cool! Maybe I could get him to do the reading for me, or at least knock out a couple of tunes.

Cynsational Giveaway

Rootless T-shirts; winner will choose color and specify size.
Enter to win a Rootless T-shirt and a signed, personalized copy of Rootless (Scholastic, 2012), and bookmarks. Eligibility: international. Deadline: Dec. 5. Note: Follow the rest of the Rootless tour for more chances to win Rootless swag.

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